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'NUMBER 23' DOESN'T ADD UP TO A THRILLER WORTH WATCHING.

Byline: Glenn Whipp

Film Critic

A gimmick movie that's light on details and heavy on overwrought style, "The Number 23" is a psychological thriller guaranteed to tick off anyone whose IQ is over the threshold of the title number. It's a film that somehow makes its preposterous construct into a dull slog, enlivened only by the occasional appearance of a bulldog possessing the most menacing stare this side of Dirty Harry.

The barely-there idea behind the movie is that Normal Guy Walter (Jim Carrey) reads a book about a man obsessed with the number 23 - it's everywhere! - and the man in the book strikes Walter as very much like himself. It's his story! And given that the book's character, a hard- boiled detective named Fingerling (also Carrey), seems intent on murdering the mean moll mama (Virginia Madsen) in his life, Walter begins to fret over the terrible things he might do to his woman, an adoring wife named Agatha (Madsen again).

"The Number 23" careens back and forth between Walter's increasing fragile grip on reality and Fingerling's dark exploits, which director Joel Schumacher renders with his customary stylized gusto.

First-timer Fernley Phillips' screenplay wavers between wink-wink knowingness (cue the bulldog) and self-seriousness, finally collapsing into a need to explain everything, even if the reasoning runs counter to everything we've just seen transpire. Most fatally, it never presents Walter as a man worth caring about.

With material this contrived, it's easy to understand why Carrey seems lost and Schumacher works overtime laying on the design to distract you from the thinness of the story. Madsen is miscast in Fingerling's fantasy, misused in the movie's reality. You would have hoped that "Sideways" would have rejuvenated her career, but since then, Madsen seems afflicted with a curse more powerful than any number. Its name is Oscar.

Glenn Whipp, (818) 713-3672.

glenn.whipp@dailynews.com

THE NUMBER 23 - One star

(R: violence, disturbing images, sexuality, language.)

Starring: Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen.

Director: Joel Schumacher.

Running time: 1 hr. 37 min.

Playing: In wide release.

In a nutshell: Psychological thriller not suitable for anyone whose IQ is above the number in the title.

CAPTION(S):

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Photo:

Jim Carrey is obsessed by all things numerical in "The Number 23," a disturbing new psychological thriller.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 23, 2007
Words:379
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