The Jim Carrey Crime Thriller Everyone Forgot

By Robert Scucci | Published

liar liar 2 jim carrey

The late 90s and early aughts saw Jim Carrey taking on a number of ambitious roles outside the realm of comedy. While films like Man on the Moon, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind showed us that Jim Carrey was fully capable of getting lost in a dramatic role, The Number 23 failed to deliver on so many levels.

But it’s still an interesting viewing experience that’s worthy of your consideration because it boasts a risky premise for an actor who made a name for himself by talking out of his butt in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Jim Carrey In The Number 23

The Number 23 is quite literally a by-the-numbers thriller in which Jim Carrey’s Walter Sparrow becomes obsessed with the titular book that was gifted to him by his wife, Agatha.

The book in question was written under the pen name Topsy Kretts (get it?), and connects a number of ill-fated world events to the elusive and problematic prime number.

But as Walter continues to thumb through the book’s pages, he notices that the narrative laid out by the book’s protagonist, detective Fingerling, mirrors events that happened in his own life.

Imagination Run Wild?

For a while, it’s reasonable to assume that Walter’s imagination is running wild in this Jim Carrey thriller. But when Walter learns of a real-life murder that bears a striking resemblance to the murder committed by Fingerling in The Number 23, he loses his grip on reality as he tries to find the real killer.

Seeing the number 23 everywhere, Walter draws on walls, scribbles on page margins, and makes ridiculous logical leaps.

Many Inconsistencies

Jim Carrey

As compelling as Jim Carrey’s performance in The Number 23 is, the film is rife with a number of tonal inconsistencies.

Since we’re dealing with a mentally unstable protagonist reading a book that’s supposedly based on his own life, Carrey had to face the daunting task of portraying Walter in the present day while also acting out the scenes depicted in the book as Fingerling.

We’ve seen similar demons get exercised in comedies like Me, Myself & Irene, which I would argue is a flawlessly executed raunchy slapstick comedy, but it doesn’t quite stick the landing in this context. 

An Uncomfortable Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey

It’s also a little uncomfortable to watch Jim Carrey, who’s covered in tribal tattoos, sensually blowing into a saxophone during the Fingerling scenes for no apparent reason. 

Despite Jim Carrey’s dedication to the role, critics absolutely hated The Number 23 upon its release.

In fact, a 23 percent rating would be an improvement over the 7 percent critical score the film received on Rotten Tomatoes.

And while the film’s abysmal score is pretty much on point, Carrey still stands behind his work because it allowed him to explore the darker side of his personality. 

Jim Carrey Commits To The Role

Jim Carrey

As disjointed as The Number 23’s plot proved to be, Jim Carrey fully commits and steps out of his comfort zone. In an alternate universe, a dark comedy based on the same premise would actually be a great idea.

After all, Walter finds himself on administrative leave from his animal control job after a run in with a vicious dog named Ned, which would make for a solid Ace Ventura side-quest.

The Number 23 On Streaming

Jim Carrey

The Number 23 isn’t necessarily a high point in Jim Carrey’s career, but it’s inspiring to see an established actor of his caliber take a risk and go for it anyway.

Though many have forgotten about this film, it’s still great fun to pick apart while busting out the trusty old calculator to see how everything adds up.

The Number 23 isn’t currently available for streaming but can be purchased on-demand on Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube.