Getting Her Digits: Carrey has romantic and numerological issues.

Sign up for our free newsletter

Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.

Jim Carrey no longer publicly broods over the Academy’s snubs of his serious work, but The Number 23 sure looks like an extended pout. Resurrecting the regular-guy routine that sold audiences on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the actor who brought us Fire Marshal Bill turns animal-control officer Walter Sparrow into a lovable schlub who’s stumbled into familial bliss with sexy baker Agatha (Virginia Madsen) and their teenage son. However, the Sparrows’ nest is upended when Agatha makes a birthday present of a very red book called The Number 23. A noirish tale of a bad-boy cop named Fingerling (also played by Carrey), the book is a twisted version of Walter’s own life. Fingerling sports terrible tattoos, engages in awkward S&M with his girlfriend (played by Madsen), and plays atonal saxophone, but he and the dogcatcher share a burgeoning obsession with the mysterious 23, which infests human history—Caesar was stabbed 23 times, Hiroshima was bombed at 8:15 a.m. (8 + 15 = 23), and so on—as well as Walter/Fingerling’s life. As this psycho/cabaladrama unfolds, bodies start showing up, Walter’s identity unravels, and, stranded in this nonsensical, unthrilling thriller, Carrey unravels with him. Genre conventions are nothing new to director Joel Schumacher, but the two lesser Batmans and a Grisham adaptation lurking in his closet, combined with The Number 23’s uninspired progression from plot point to plot point, makes his surprisingly effective take on The Phantom of the Opera seem more like a fluke. One expects more from Carrey, a comedian who until now has painstakingly chosen his forays into pathos. The Majestic aside, the Academy’s stuffy disapproval of Carrey’s dramatic trifecta—The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, and, of course, Eternal Sunshine—was unwarranted. Still, if Carrey is to follow in the footsteps of funnymen-turned-dramateurs Robin Williams and Bill Murray, he’ll have to avoid numerological pulp like this in the future. Schumacher’s film is also particularly unkind to Madsen, who does little more than stand by her graphomaniacal man. If Sideways rescued her from a bottomless sea of mediocrities, The Number 23 plunges her right back into the icy water. Hollywood may yet again take these two actors seriously, but with this misguided career choice, they’re back on the B-list.