For those of us stupid enough to stay in the theater during “Batman Forever”, we actually remember having the following thought the moment we left the building, “How could a movie with Jim Carrey suck so bad?” Why do I bring this up? “Batman Forever” (BF from now on) was directed by Joel Schumacher. Jim Carrey played a nutjob, aka The Riddler. Fast forward twelve years and we have Schumacher, once again directing Carrey, who is playing a nutjob. I know what you are thinking…I wasn’t stupid enough to watch “Batman and Robin,” also directed by Schumacher; why would I be stupid enough to watch this? Well, I have good news. They have both learned their lesson.
Both of them were given a head start, as this movie actually had a script. As opposed to BF, whose writers delivered what appeared to be the second place prize of an elementary school talent show. It’s still hard to see Jim Carrey playing serious roles, especially when Fire Marshall Bill is dancing through your head, but he has proven that he can do it in this film. His years of making goofy faces pays off as he contorts his face into different levels of tortured. I know that “crazy guy” doesn’t seem like much of stretch from some of his previous roles, but this is a whole different kind of crazy. For this movie to work, he must portray two different characters. One is the character in the book; the other is the character reading the book. What book? I’m glad you asked.
Walter Sparrow (Carrey) is given a book by his wife (Virginia Madsen) called The Number 23. The book has a disclaimer which tells the reader not to continue if it seems that the characters are similar to people in the reader’s own life. We don’t really know who wrote the disclaimer, but it’s a decent piece of foreshadowing (an extremely rare talent by writers these days). He begins to read the book and starts seeing parallels to his own life (I told you it was only decent). As he gets further into the story, he becomes, predictably, obsessed with the number twenty-three. His wife is concerned for him, but allows, and even indulges, his behavior. By the time he has finished the book, he believes that the murder in the story actually occurred in reality.
What I particularly enjoyed about Sparrow was that he begins to take on the role of the character in the book (Fingerling), who is a detective. As the movie progresses, we find Sparrow investigating the number twenty-three and eventually, the murder. Carrey does an excellent job of meshing the two characters, eventually creating a third character by the end of the film. As for the rest of the cast, they adequately performed their roles, which is to say they let Carrey carry the movie. This is also where Schumacher can begin to take some credit. This film would not have worked with more than one main character. Schumacher also did a great job in creating a film noir, also, a nearly extinct talent. The dark settings, the many “23” references, the contrasts of colors in the book scenes, and the loose ends being tied up, all helped Schumacher create what is probably his best work.
Since I liked this movie and am recommending that you watch it, I will not spoil it by giving away any of the secrets. But since the foreshadowing was one of the strengths of this movie, I will leave you with the author of the book – Topsy Kretts. If you can appreciate a name like that, you will definitely enjoy this film and forgive Schumacher for subjecting us to Mr. Freeze.
Rating: Don’t ask for any of your money back. Film noir is rare enough, let alone good film noir.