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The Number 23 is a 2007 suspense film starring Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen, Danny Huston and directed by Joel Schumacher. It was subsequently released on DVD on July 24 2007 (23 July in the UKmarker), and premiered on HBO on Saturday April 19, 2008. 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 the number 23. This is the second film to pair Schumacher and Carrey, the first being Batman Forever. This is Carrey's first suspense thriller.


Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) is an animal control officer married to cake shop owner, Agatha (Virginia Madsen); they have a son, Robin (Logan Lerman). The film opens with Walter narrating the events of his recent birthday. He begins by describing how, when it was almost five o'clock, he received a call to catch a dog. The dog had been cornered in the basement of a Chinese restaurant, and gives chase when Walter approaches. Walter eventually corners the dog, and learns from his name tag that his name is Ned. While Walter is distracted by light reflecting off Ned's tag, the dog bites his arm and escapes again. Walter attempts to follow, but loses Ned at a cemetery. While searching the cemetery, Walter notices the gravestone of a girl named Laura Tollins.

Walter is late meeting his wife and while she is waiting, she enters a bookstore where she looks through a book titled The Number 23 written by Topsy Kretts. When Walter finally arrives, Agatha announces that she is going to buy the book for him as a birthday present.

Once home, Walter starts reading the book, noticing what he takes to be odd similarities between himself and the main character, a detective who refers to himself solely as "Fingerling". The character explains that he got the name from an obscure children's book, one that Walter realizes, much to his surprise, that he had also owned and enjoyed as a child. Also of note, the book details Fingerling finding his neighbor, Ms. Dobkins dead (though Ms. Dobkins appears to have committed suicide, Fingerling imagines her murder.) This too parallels events in Walter's life, and he begins to believe that the book has some significance towards his own life. The book also details Fingerling's meeting with the "Suicide Blonde" whose bizarre obsession with the number 23 drives her to murder her boyfriend and commit suicide. In the novel, her explanations and calculations of almost everything — including names, birth dates, and colours — all add up to 23 (or variations such as 2 and 3 or 32), driving her insane.

Walter takes the book back to the bookstore for further information and learns it was self-published and self-printed, and that, according to the store clerk, the author, Topsy Kretts, never released any other books.

Walter's continued paranoia causes him to have dreams of killing Agatha, again in parallel with the book. After one such vivid dream he drives off in the middle of the night, leaving a note saying that he has to clear his head. Walter winds up in the King Edward Hotelmarker and requests room 23 on a whim, which the hotel manager declines as he explains it has plumbing problems, and give him the key to room 27 instead. Walter spends the evening finishing the book only to discover that the book stops at chapter 22 with Fingerling standing on a balcony trying to decide whether or not to jump, after murdering his lover, Fabrizia.

The next day, Walter sees Ned the dog from the hotel room window. He grabs his tranquilizer gun, and begins to follow Ned back to the cemetery. He finds the dog sitting near a grave, and shoots him with the tranquilizer gun. He then meets a priest and the cemetery gardener, and learns that they have nicknamed Ned "The Guardian of the Dead" due to his fondness for sitting and watching the gravestones, with a special attention to Laura Tollins' grave. He is told that Laura is a murder victim, and that her grave is empty, as her body was never found.

Later that night, Walter returns home with a newspaper article about the murder of college student Laura Tollins (Rhona Mitra) by her psychology professor, with whom she was having sexual relations; the circumstances of Laura's murder are almost exactly the same as the murder in the Number 23 book. Walter thinks the professor wrote the book as a secret confession and goes to see him in jail, yet the visit yields nothing. 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 a simple homonym for "Top Secrets."

Robin finds a P.O. Box address hidden in the back of the book and they send a shipment of 23 boxes to it, hoping to draw out the book's author. They wait for Topsy Kretts (Bud Cort), who, upon being confronted by Walter, becomes panicked, proclaims Walter should be dead and slits his own throat. Inside the man's pockets, Agatha finds an ID card belonging to a mental institution, showing that the man is Dr. Sirius Leary and tells Walter nothing of it. She goes to the abandoned asylum and finds Leary's old office. In a cell covered in calculations of the number 23, she finds an old box with Walter's name on it.

Meanwhile, Robin and Walter, who have been examining the book, discover that every 23rd word on every 23rd page spells out two messages which lead them to "Casanova's Park." They arrive at the park late that night, and they go down a staircase marked "The Steps to Heaven," which consists of 23 steps. At the bottom, they dig deep in the ground and discover a human skeleton, presumably Laura Tollins, but when they return with a police officer, the bones have disappeared. Agatha arrives with Dr. French, only raising Walter's hackles more, and they return home. On the way, they encounter Ned sitting in the road. Walter rushes towards him intending to kill Ned, but stops at the last second when Agatha grabs his arm. At this moment, Walter realizes that her fingers are stained with dirt.

As Agatha washes her dirt-stained hands at their home, Walter confronts her about taking the bones and accuses her of writing the book. She admits to moving the skeleton to protect him and tells Walter that, in fact, it was he who wrote the book, and shows him the contents of the box from the Institute. In the box there are detective comics, the manuscript of The Number 23 with Walter's name on it and a saxophone, the instrument Fingerling played in the book. Also in the box is an ankle bracelet that belonged to Laura Tollins.

He returns to the hotel room, this time accessing Room 23, where he tears down the wallpaper and finds the missing 23rd chapter written all over the wall. The chapter explains that the story was, in fact, 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, a woman he went to college with, and grew obsessed with 23 because of his father. Laura eventually began sleeping with her professor, and when Walter confronted her about the affair, she declared that she never loved him, and dares Walter to kill her. After some provoking, Walter went into a rage, stabbing her and burying her in the park, which Ned observed. Like the character in the book, 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, and staining his hands with blood. With this evidence, he was subsequently convicted for the murder. Walter then went into the hotel room, wrote The Number 23, placing the damning 23rd chapter on the walls, floor and every other part of the room, and then jumped off the balcony. He survived but suffered severe injuries and trauma, which required intense therapy. Walter then ended up in the institute where Dr. Leary worked. Dr. Leary read the manuscript and, after publishing it, becomes obsessed with the number 23 himself. Because of the fall, Walter suffered memory loss, forgetting that he killed Laura, and, upon leaving the institute, he met Agatha.

Finally, Walter turns himself in, thereby freeing the professor and relieving his conscience, while Laura Tollins' body is finally interred at the cemetery (with Ned present at the funeral). According to Walter's lawyer, the judge may lighten his sentence in view of the fact that Walter had turned himself in. Though entering prison, Walter Sparrow seems optimistic about himself and his family's future, having taught his son about "justice." It is implied, however, that Walter's sanity is still quite fragile and that he may once again be plagued by number madness as the final scene shows Walter looking at the clock with the little hand on the two and the big hand on the three.

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



The film has received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics, with a current rating of 8% on Rotten Tomatoes. Of the few critics who liked the film, Richard Roeper and critic George Pennachio of KABC-TVmarker in Los Angelesmarker 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 recent illness). However, Michael Phillips, filling in for Ebert on the Worst of 2007 show (aired January 12, 2008) put 23 at No. 77 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, while Colm Andrew of the Manx Independent said the film "delivers a rambling, confusing narrative with only a few stylistic elements thrown in".

Star Jim Carrey was nominated for the 2008 Razzie Award for Worst Actor, for his performance.

Gross revenue

On its opening weekend, The Number 23 took in $14.6 million, coming in behind Ghost Rider which grossed $20 million. In total, the film grossed $35.2 million at the box office domestically. Worldwide the film grossed $77.6 million.

DVD release

The film was released on Region 1 DVD on July 24, 2007. It includes deleted scenes, such as a much more abstract alternate opening somewhat redolent 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 26, 2007 The Number 23 has generated about $26 million from DVD rental gross.


  1. The Number 23,, accessed March 25, 2007.
  2. Ebert & Roeper, air date February 24, 2007.
  3. Travers, Peter, (December 19, 2007) "Peter Travers' Best and Worst Movies of 2007" Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-12-20
  4. Review by Colm Andrew, IOM Today

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