© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
L to R: Virginia Madsen
as Agatha Sparrow and
Jim Carrey as Walter
Sparrow in

Image copyright © 2007 New Line
dramatic performer in the TV-movie DOING
. Since then, though, he
comedic roles he has created that even when he
does a creditable job in more "serious" parts,
Carrey just cannot seem to get the respect he

I wish I could say that his work in the thriller
THE NUMBER 23 was a worthy addition to his
resume, but unfortunately I cannot. He does try
mightily to make the part work for him and there
are flashes when it does come together --
mostly when he's portraying a second role.

Let me rewind here -- the film's premise is this:
Carrey portrays Walter Sparrow, an animal
control officer with a pretty wife (Virginia
Madsen) who operates her own bake shop and a
well-adjusted teenage son (Logan Lerman). On
his birthday, with just minutes before he is to
knock off work, he receives a call to investigate
a dog that is terrorizing a Chinese restaurant.
The dog, whose tag reads "Ned," manages to
get away leading Walter to be late in meeting
his wife Agatha. While waiting for her husband,
she wanders into a book store and thumbs
through a novel which she decides to buy as a
present for her husband. The book, called
, is about characters who become
obsessed with that figure -- and soon after
beginning to read the book, Walter finds himself
doing the same thing. He also starts to find
distressing similarities between the fictional
characters and his own life. Soon, he's on a
search for the author and the secret behind the
book. And that's where things get even stranger.

Director Joel Schumacher may not have been the
ideal choice to helm this sort of material which
requires a certain frisson that he lacks. (Imagine
what someone like say David Fincher might have
done with the material.) As it is, what is on
screen is murky and not terribly interesting.
Cinematographer Matthew Libatique (who has
done terrific work in collaboration with Darren
Aronofsky for example) here seems at a loss.
Carrey's character gets caught up in the novel's
plot and he imagines himself playing the lead
and these sequences have been shot as if they
were part of an advertising campaign for the
latest high-end perfume (Chanel No. 23,

Clearly there's something wrong when fine
performers like Lynne Collins, Virginia Madsen
and Danny Huston barely register. Carrey tries
hard -- and that's his problem -- he's TRYING
too much to prove that he can carry off a
dramatic role. He's yet to find that one part
which will demonstrate that he can be both a
brilliant clown and a fine dramatic performer.
Hopefully Carrey won't give up -- he should
remember that it took Bill Murray years before
he finally achieved that balance.

As it is, though,
THE NUMBER 23 starts off
promisingly but quickly devolves into an uneven

Rating:            D
MPAA Rating:   R for violence, disturbing
                    images, sexuality and
Running time:   95 mins.

Viewed at the AMC Empire 25
Whatever you
think about Jim
Carrey, one has to
give the man
some credit for
trying to stretch
as a performer.
Years ago he
proved to be an