The Number 23

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The Number 23
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoel Schumacher
Written byFernley Phillips
Produced by
CinematographyMatthew Libatique
Edited byMark Stevens
Music byHarry Gregson-Williams
Distributed byNew Line Cinema[1]
Release date
  • February 23, 2007 (2007-02-23)
Running time
98 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[3]
Box office$77.6 million[3]

The Number 23 is a 2007 American thriller film[3] written by Fernley Phillips and directed by Joel Schumacher. Jim Carrey stars as a man who becomes obsessed with the 23 enigma once he reads about it in a strange book that seemingly mirrors his own life. The film was released in the United States on February 23, 2007. This is the second film to pair Schumacher and Carrey, the first being Batman Forever. The film grossed $77.6 million, and has an approval rating of 7% on Rotten Tomatoes.


Walter Sparrow is an animal control officer married to Agatha, with their son, Robin. Walter fails to catch stray dog 'Ned' and is late to meet Agatha. Agatha ends up browsing a bookstore and begins reading a book titled The Number 23 written by Topsy Kretts. She later gives Walter the book as a birthday present. Walter starts reading the book and notices similarities between himself and the main character, a detective who refers to himself as "Fingerling." As Walter continues reading, he envisions himself and those closest to him as the book's characters, himself as Fingerling and Agatha as Fabrizia, Fingerling's new girlfriend etc.

Fingerling gets dispatched to a suicidal woman, 'Suicide Blonde', who rants about her obsession with the number 23, that it "rules her world" before jumping from her apartment balcony to her death. Fingerling examines the apartment and begins to read her scribblings of the enigma and soon begins noticing the number 23 everywhere he goes, too. Walter visits the book store and learns the book is self-published and there are no other works or further information on Topsy Kretts. Walter starts becoming obsessed with the 23 enigma, the idea that all incidents and events are directly connected to the number 23. Robin seems taken in by the enigma whilst Agatha dismisses any significance about the number. As Fingerling's obsession with the number increases, so does Walter's and Fingerling begins having nightmares about killing Fabrizia.

Concerned with Walter's growing obsession, Agatha refers him to her friend, Isaac French, who suggests Walter is being paranoid and recommends Walter finish the book to find the answers he's looking for. Isaac offers to speak to Agatha in the meantime. Fingerling tells his department shrink about his nightmares and about the number. Dr. Miles Phoenix (Isaac) suggests he takes a break and offers to speak to Fabrizia. Fabrizia does not find Fingerling's vacation appealing. After Fingerling discovers Fabrizia has 23 pairs of shoes he destroys them, causing Fabrizia to storm out of their apartment, calling him insane. Not long after, Fingerling discovers Fabrizia is having an affair with Dr. Phoenix and Walter begins growing paranoid of Agatha and Isaac's friendship.

Walter has a nightmare that he's stabbed Agatha to death. Fearing what's happening to him, Walter leaves home and stays in the King Edward Hotel (room 23) to finish the book and clear his head. Miles discovers a murdered Fabrizia, stabbed to death. The police arrest Miles, who, not knowing if Fabrizia was role-playing or not, picked up the murder weapon. Fingerling flees the scene to a hotel where he, erratic, steps towards the hotel balcony, mirroring Suicide Blonde's final moments. The book ends abruptly, with no further information on Fingerling. Walter is convinced the number had gone after Fingerling and was now going after him.

Walter immediately spots Ned and chases him, blaming the dog for making him late and therefore having the curse in his life. Walter catches Ned and learns he's under the care of a local church, since Ned tends to visit the cemetery. Ned recently favors a certain tombstone, Laura Tollins, who died on her 23rd birthday, although her body was never found. Walter discovers the circumstances revolving Laura Tollins' death is similar to the book's events and believes Tollins' convicted killer is the book's author. Walter visits Kyle Flinch in prison and asks him what the number means. Kyle maintains his innocence, denying both killing Laura and writing the book. Since Kyle's name does not add to 23, Walter is convinced he's innocent. Robin, who has also read the book, finds a hidden address. Hoping it's the author's address, the family send 23 empty packages to the address occupant, in order to entrap them at the delivery office.

A suspicious looking man enters the post office and when Walter confronts him, the man is suddenly terrified, telling Walter he should be dead. The man attacks Walt with a box cutter before slicing his own throat. Agatha attempts to stop the bleeding and tells Walter to take Robin home. Before succumbing to his injuries, the man tells Agatha to go to an institute. Agatha sees that, like Walter, the man is obsessed with the 23 enigma. Agatha finds the man's former work ID badge and visits the institute which is now fenced off and abandoned. There, she discovers a patient box labelled W. Sparrow but before she can look further a figure approaches her, giving her a fright.

Meanwhile, Walter discovers a secret message within the book, telling him to go to his local park and dig beneath its steps. Walter and Robin visit the park and dig beneath its 23rd step discovering a skeleton. The two flee and call the police but upon returning, discover the body has been removed. Agatha meets them at the park, having been driven by Isaac. Driving home, Walter glimpses Agatha's muddy fingertips and realizes she moved the skeleton. Walter confronts Agatha, believing she is the author who had murdered the book's publisher to protect herself and removed the skeleton. Agatha at first admits only to moving the skeleton, but finally admits what she learned at the psychiatric hospital, that the book was written by Walter.

Agatha shows a confused Walter the patient box Inside are sources Walter used to write his novel. Seeing his old items, Walter begins partially remembering his past and flees to the King Edward Hotel. There he rips down the wallpaper of room 23 and discovers his past scribblings, the missing final chapter of the book, Chapter 23. Walter reads and remembers. Young Walter's mother killed herself which caused his father to do the same. Walter's father, an accountant, failed to leave a suicide note, only his notebook, containing the 23 enigma. In college Walter met Laura Tollins, who was aroused by danger. Tollins started flirting with her teacher Kyle Flinch to mess with Walter and with Walter's numeral obsession returning, Tollins had an affair with Flinch and broke up with Walt via note but Walter 'deciphered' her message and was convinced she was in danger and that the number wanted to 'kill her'.

Walter visited Tollins to warn her but she threatened him with a knife and, after a few harsh words, cut his arm. Walter went into a frenzy and stabbed her multiple times. Walter then fled with her body and proceeded to bury it under the park steps. Kyle Flinch later arrived, picked up the knife, incriminating himself. Walter arrived at the King Edward Hotel and began typewriting his suicide note which quickly becomes the book, changing the details of his confession into a fantasy. Walter then wrote the true events all over the room's walls before jumping out the window. Walter survived his suicide attempt but due to his head trauma and survivors guilt is left with amnesia. Walter was rehabilitated at the institute and discharged. Meanwhile, one of its doctors had obtained Walter's novel and began to succumb to the enigma, eventually publishing it under the name Topsy Kretts.

Back in the present, Agatha finds Walter at the hotel. Walter remembers everything and tells Agatha he's a murderer but Agatha argues he isn't the same person. Walter tells Agatha to leave before he kills again. Walter flees the hotel and runs into the street. There, across the road Ned is staring at him. As Walter stares at the dog a bus comes towards him at full speed. Almost allowing himself to be run over, Walter steps out of the way at the last second when he realizes his son is watching, not wanting to repeat the cycle his own father created. Walter, hugged by both Agatha and Robin, finally exclaims that it's just a number.

Walter hands himself in to the police and awaits sentencing and is told a judge will likely go easy on him due to handing himself in. A funeral procession takes place in front of Tollins' grave, where it is implied her body has finally been laid to rest.



The Number 23 has an approval rating of 7% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 189 reviews; the average rating is 3.50/10. The site's consensus reads: "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."[4] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of "B−" on scale of A+ to F.[5]

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 "two thumbs up" rating on the television show Ebert & Roeper (Pennachio was standing in for Roger Ebert due to Ebert's illness).[6] However, Michael Phillips, filling in for Ebert on the Worst of 2007 show (aired January 12, 2008) put The Number 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,[7] while Colm Andrew of the Manx Independent said the film "delivers a rambling, confusing narrative with only a few stylistic elements thrown in".[8] The film was nominated for two Teen Choice Awards.[9] For his performance, Carrey was nominated for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor at the 28th Golden Raspberry Awards,[10] but lost 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's second weekend.[11] 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.[3] The film was released in the United Kingdom on February 23, 2007, and opened on #3, behind Charlotte's Web and Hot Fuzz.[12]

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. This is the last in New Line's Infinifilm series. Special features include deleted scenes, such as a much more abstract alternate opening 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "The Number 23". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  2. ^ "THE NUMBER 23 (15)". Entertainment Film Distributors. British Board of Film Classification. February 8, 2007. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d The Number 23 at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ "The Number 23". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 20, 2022.
  5. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  6. ^ Ebert & Roeper, air date February 24, 2007.
  7. ^ Travers, Peter, (December 19, 2007) "Peter Travers' Best and Worst Movies of 2007" Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-12-20
  8. ^ Review by Colm Andrew Archived February 1, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, IOM Today
  9. ^ Strock, Ian Randal (August 27, 2007). "Fox TV's Teen Choice Awards Recognize Genre Winners". SFScope. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  10. ^ "Razzie nominations for worst in film announced". The Oklahoman. January 21, 2008. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  11. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for February 23-25, 2007". Box Office Mojo. February 26, 2007. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  12. ^ "UK Weekend Box Office 23rd February 2007 - 25th February 2007". Retrieved January 10, 2019.

External links[edit]