Things don't really add up in The Number 23, but you can count on some queasy chills and trashy thrills all the same. Combining the playful/unhinged sides of his screen persona, Jim Carrey headlines as a small-town dog catcher rattled to find parallels between his life and the novel he's reading. Will locating its author solve the puzzle? Not really, but Joel Schumacher's film proves enthralling enough to forgive a final twist so dumb you half expect Ace Ventura to appear.
With a central conceit similar to that of Stranger Than Fiction and hard-boiled fantasy sequences that recall Sin City's monochrome pulp noir, Carrey's sense of déjà vu is likely to be contagious. One element, though, is relatively fresh: his character's obsession with the eponymous digits, numerals he begins to see cropping up everywhere he looks. Kudos to writer Fernley Phillips for seizing on this widely observed and genuinely creepy phenomenon, even if its role is little more than to provide another red herring in a story that has enough of them to stock a village fishmonger's.
"BEFUDDLED AND PSYCHOTIC"
Oscillating between befuddled and psychotic, Carrey makes a convincing transformation from ordinary Joe to disturbed obsessive in a role that makes good use of his manic energy. Virginia Madsen, however, seems oddly remote as his concerned spouse, a failing mirrored by Danny Huston's too-urbane shrink. Then again, they may merely be reacting the only way possible to a script that requires them to ponder a novelist named 'Topsy Kretts' without spotting anything amiss.
The Number 23 is released in UK cinemas on Friday 23rd February 2007.