The Number 23

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For the actual number, see 23 (number). For another film by a similar name, see 23 (film).
The Number 23
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Produced by Beau Flynn
Tripp Vinson
Written by Fernley Phillips
Starring Jim Carrey
Virginia Madsen
Logan Lerman
Danny Huston
Music by Harry Gregson-Williams
Cinematography Matthew Libatique
Edited by Mark Stevens
Firm Films
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release dates
  • February 23, 2007 (2007-02-23)
Running time
98 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million[2]
Box office $77,566,815[2]

The Number 23 is a 2007 American psychological thriller film written by Fernley Phillips and directed by Joel Schumacher. Starring Jim Carrey, the film was released in the United States on February 23, 2007.

The plot involves an obsession with the 23 enigma, an esoteric belief that all incidents and events are directly connected to the number 23, some permutation of the number 23, or a number related to 23. This is Carrey's first role in a suspense thriller since he played a supporting part in the 1988 film The Dead Pool, the last installment of the Dirty Harry series, and his second collaboration with Schumacher, following the 1995 Batman Forever.

The film was financially successful, but critical reviews were largely negative.


Walter Sparrow is an animal control officer married to Agatha with a son named Robin. At a bookstore, Agatha gives Walter a book called the number 23 as a birthday present.

Walter starts reading the book, noticing odd similarities between himself and the main character, a detective who refers to himself as "Fingerling". Walter begins to have dreams of murdering Agatha. After one such dream, he checks into a hotel, in the room number 23, where he stays up all night finishing the book, only to discover that it ends at chapter 22 with Fingerling about to commit suicide after murdering his lover.

The next day, Walter sees a dog which he had earlier tried to capture that leads him to a cemetery and the grave of Laura Tollins, a college student who had been murdered by her professor Kyle Flinch, with whom she was having an affair. The circumstances of Laura's murder mirror those of Fingerling's lover in the book. Walter thinks the professor wrote the book as a secret confession and goes to see him in jail. The man proclaims his innocence of the murder and of being the author, stating he would never choose a pen name like "Topsy Kretts," pointing out that it is an obvious homophone for "Top Secrets."

Upon discovering an address in the book, the family arranges a meeting with Topsy Kretts, who, upon being confronted by Walter, becomes panicked, proclaims that Walter should be dead, and kills himself. Agatha finds an ID card belonging to a mental institution, showing the man is Dr. Sirius Leary. She goes to the abandoned asylum and finds Walter's name on a box in Leary's office. Meanwhile, Robin and Walter discover that every 23rd word on every twenty-third page of the book spells out two messages which lead them to "Casanova's Park." At the park they discover a human skeleton, presumably Tollins, but when they return with a police officer the bones have disappeared. Walter confronts Agatha about taking the bones and accuses her of writing the book. She admits to moving the skeleton to protect him, but tells Walter that it was he who wrote the book, and shows him the contents of the box from the Institute. In the box there is a manuscript of The Number 23 with Walter's name on it and an ankle bracelet that belonged to Tollins.

Walter returns to the hotel to room 23, where he finds the missing 23rd chapter written all over the wall. The chapter explains that the story was Walter's confession and he remembers why he did everything: his father killed himself after the death of Walter's mother. His suicide note was just pages of things that added up to the number 23. Walter loved Laura Tollins and grew obsessed with 23 because of his father. Laura began sleeping with her professor. Walter tried to warn her about the number being dangerous and how it was going to come after her. She didn't believe him, which led Walter to kill her, which the dog witnessed. The professor was the first to walk into the room where Laura was killed, and he picked up the knife, covering the weapon with his fingerprints making him get convicted for the murder. Walter went to the hotel room, wrote The Number 23, and attempted suicide. He survived but suffered severe injuries and trauma. Walter ended up in the institute where Dr. Leary worked. Dr. Leary read the manuscript and, after publishing it, became obsessed with the number 23 himself. Because of the fall, Walter suffered memory loss and upon leaving the institute he met Agatha.

Agatha finds Walter at the hotel, and tries to assure him that he is no longer the person he was when he wrote the book. He insists that he is a killer, accepting the fact that he murdered Tollins. He leaves the hotel and runs into the street to be run over by a bus but steps out of the way at the last minute when he realizes his son is watching. Walter turns himself in to the police and is awaiting sentencing, having been told that the judge will likely go easy on him since he turned himself in. A funeral procession takes place in front of Tollins' grave, where it is implied her body has finally been laid to rest.

At the end of the film, viewers can see the Bible reading from Numbers 32:23: "Be sure your sin will find you out."



The film has received negative reviews by the majority of critics, with a current rating of 8% on Rotten Tomatoes and a consensus stating "Jim Carrey has been sharp in a number of non-comedic roles, but this lurid, overheated, and self-serious potboiler is not one of them. The Number 23 is clumsy, unengaging, and mostly confusing."[3] Of the few critics who liked the film, Richard Roeper and critic George Pennachio of KABC-TV in Los Angeles stand out, as they gave the film a "2 thumbs up" rating on the television show Ebert & Roeper (Pennachio was standing in for Roger Ebert due to Ebert's illness).[4]

However, Michael Phillips, filling in for Ebert on the Worst of 2007 show (aired January 12, 2008) put 23 at No. 7 in his list of the worst (Roeper did not include it in his list). Peter Travers (of Rolling Stone) declared the film the year's worst star vehicle on his list of the Worst Movies of 2007,[5] while Colm Andrew of the Manx Independent said the film "delivers a rambling, confusing narrative with only a few stylistic elements thrown in".[6]

For his performance, Carrey was nominated for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor at the 2008 Golden Raspberry Awards, but lost the "award" to Eddie Murphy for Norbit.

Box office[edit]

On its opening weekend, The Number 23 took in $14,602,867, coming in behind Ghost Rider in its second weekend.[7] After five weeks of release, the film grossed $35,193,167 at the domestic box office and $42,373,648 overseas for a worldwide total of $77,566,815.[2]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on Region 1 DVD on July 24, 2007; the release contains both the theatrical version and an extended version, which runs an additional four minutes. Special features include deleted scenes, such as a much more abstract alternate opening somewhat reminiscent of the opening of The Double Life of Véronique, and an alternate ending that gives a few more details about Walter's prison sentence and hints at the possibility that the son could be subject to the same obsessions as his father. The disc also includes interviews with mathematicians, psychologists, and numerologists. The DVD shows the film over a set of 23 chapters. As of August 24, 2007, The Number 23 has generated $27.7 million from DVD rental gross.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "THE NUMBER 23 (15)". Entertainment Film Distributors. British Board of Film Classification. February 8, 2007. Retrieved August 1, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c The Number 23 at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ The Number 23,, accessed March 25, 2007.
  4. ^ Ebert & Roeper, air date February 24, 2007.
  5. ^ Travers, Peter, (December 19, 2007) "Peter Travers' Best and Worst Movies of 2007" Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-12-20
  6. ^ Review by Colm Andrew, IOM Today
  7. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for February 23-25, 2007". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. February 26, 2007. Retrieved August 1, 2014. 

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