Jim Carrey is not a bad actor. He's not an incredible actor, but he's not a bad actor. Jim Carrey is the kind of actor, when it comes to drama at least, that begs for a great director. He's a comedian by nature, and he needs a good amount of direction to produce quality dramatic roles. Unfortunately, Joel Schumacher is not a great director. He's simply a good one. He's directed great movies (Falling Down), good movies (The Lost Boys), and oh-my-God-give-me-my-money-back-you-awful-man movies (The Phantom of the Opera). I believe The Number 23 falls into the good movie category. And it's mostly due to the pretty good but not great storyline combined with the pretty good but not great acting done by Jim Carrey and Virginia Madsen.
The Number 23 is half paranoid drama and half film noir. Walter Sparrow (Carrey) is a dog catcher who lives a quiet life with his wife and son. When, on his birthday, his wife Agatha (Madsen) gives him a tattered book, he immediately becomes obsessed with the main character, claiming the author is writing about his life. Throughout the movie, Walter becomes more obsessed with the number 23 and begins to drag his family into the twisted theories invading his mind. The weird story culminates into an interesting reveal that seems to be satisfying but falls quickly into the mundane.
As Walter reads the mysterious novel, the audience gets treated to a little film noir as the story's characters come to life. Carrey transforms from everyman Walter into the dark, slick Detective Fingerling. Madsen goes from bakery owner to the masochistic sexpot Fabrizia. The cinematography gets harsher (and much cooler), and the dialogue transforms into that slightly melodramatic, clipped wording that is oh-so-familiar to noir. Even though hints of Schumacher's Batman and Robin kept sneaking in, this was the best part of the movie for me. Carrey, as Fingerling, has some good comedic--albeit dark--moments. There were a few times where I muffled a laugh because of some absurdly funny moment. I actually found myself wanting to spend more time with Fingerling and less time with Walter.
All and all, The Number 23 is a three star movie. Jim Carrey's voiceover is awkwardly serious and feels forced at points. Virginia Madsen is pretty good, but not nearly as good as she was in Sideways. Overall, the story was decent, and the ending was somewhat satisfying, but I'm sure come December, I will have forgotten all about this movie.