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Massawyrm Says THE NUMBER 23 Doesn't Add Up!!

Hola all. Massawyrm here. Damnit! I fucking hate it when this happens. You know what I’m talking about. You’re in the middle of watching this pretty badass little film, a film that by all accounts is exceeding your every expectation. It’s cool, stylish, well acted, fairly original…and then. The Third act twist. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Way ahead of myself. Let’s go back a decade and a half. The internet wasn’t really available to the general populace yet and most of us computer fiends were stuck logging into BBS’s on dedicated personal computers that talked to other computers a couple times a day on what was called the WWIV network. E-mail to other BBS’s sometimes took days and was measured in Hops. Any bit of esoterica was shoddily cobbled together and not readily available. That meant if you wanted something cool, something counter culture, then there was only one place to get it. A Headshop. There - hidden among the underground comix, the erotic greeting cards, the meerschaum and the “water” pipes - was a locked bookcase. Inside was the Waldenbooks of the Damned. The Anarchist Cookbook, The Book of the Subgenius, The Little Red Book, back issues of 2600, High Weirdness by Mail, High Priest and pretty much the complete works of one Robert Anton Wilson –the secret king (or Pope, Praise Bob!) of Counterculture. So in other words, what I’m saying is in that day and age, if you were a hipster wannabe much like I was, you read Wilson. A lot. Now the thing about Wilson was that he was one of the founding members of the Discordians – and lived out his will to sew discord through his writing. He wrote not only fiction, but non-fiction books that combined history, philosophy, conspiracy theory and utter bullshit he and his buddies cooked up into one, coherent universe so inextricably tied together that it began to become difficult telling what really existed before Wilson and his cronies - and what they were chuckling about behind our backs. Hell, one need only spend an evening reading his encyclopedic Everything is Under Control: Conspiracies, Cults and Cover-Ups to see just how blatantly he blends reality with his own fiction. And it really messes with your head. Enter 23 theory, one of Wilson’s favorite topics. As much as it was one of his fun toys, many have played around with it or referenced it in some way. Some serious, some not. Hell, any Lost fans out there? You probably know where the 42 came from. Wilson is where they got the 23. Well, there were a hell of a lot of us Counterculture hipster wannabes out there – and now one of them wrote a script. The Number 23 is what happens when someone takes one of the ideas of the Counterculture, gives it a trippy, edgy film treatment – but then tarts it up as a Hollywood thriller and ultimately sells out the premise for a big twist ending that will be the line of demarcation as to your love or disappointment with this film. Hell, anyone that knows what Charlie Kaufman was openly mocking and deconstructing in Adaptation will roll their eyes as they find much of that here. Which is really a shame – because the first two acts of this film are really quite good. Damn good. Jim Carrey gives another of his great Seriously, I do more than talk out of my ass and chomp my teeth performances – one of his normal guy on the verge of a complete breakdown roles. If there’s anything in this film that works all the way through, it’s him, even when he’s in his Novel/dreamworld Colin Farrell trenchcoat scenes – when Cool is just the last thing you’d expect Carrey to be able to pull off. In fact those scenes inside the novel are some of the best in the film. They’re cliché, trite and overdone – just like the terrible detective novel they’re supposed to be, and yet you become engrossed. Schumacher does an excellent job shooting this world with the surreal quality it needs – while nailing the fevered obsession that people seem to have for the number 23. And for those already familiar with 23 theory, there’s a lot to have fun with here, complete with several subtle nods to the writing of Wilson – never blatant enough to ask “Do ya get it? Do ya get it?” but certainly there with the occasional wink for those familiar. Unfortunately, no matter what they get right, the film begins to peter out as it starts to remind you that this is a THRILLER and not cerebral dark fantasy film. Fingers start pointing in the usual “Who’s the killer” sort of way and you try to sort out all the red herrings as the film slowly loses more and more steam until the big reveal…Chapter 23... …which just plain fucking blows. You’re like what, really? That’s what’s really going on? and then you’re given what seems like 23 minutes of explanation as to exactly how it all actually works. But the wind is taken right out of your sails. Sure, while you’re watching it it seems to work and then is followed up by a rather unconventional ending. But it just fails to meet the potential that the first two acts seem to promise. And that disappointment is nothing compared to the indignation of the ride home as you start putting together the fragments, asking the usual “So how did this actually work” questions only to realize Wait just one god damned second! That doesn’t make ANY fucking sense! And it doesn’t. This movie straddles the line between real and the supernatural – but not in a way that works when all is said and done – meanwhile, the little details, the minutia of it all, don’t add up. And yeah, sure, sometimes that’s okay. But it’s not okay in a film pretending to be this intelligent. I’m all for the suspension of disblief, but this wants to be Fight Club or Memento or The Usual Suspects. Instead it’s more along the lines of Matchstick Men. Not everyone’s gonna have a problem with the ending. But a lot of folks will, especially those who like to work the films out in their head once the credits have rolled. Because while the film might be telling you 4 + 19 adds up to 23 – it doesn’t. Not here at least. This is one of those films I really, really want to like, but it just won’t let me. It really did have a ton of potential. And I’m not talking about potential from the source material – potential from what the film delivers early on. Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. Massawyrm
Got something for the Wyrm? Is every 23rd word something special? Mail it here.

Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 22, 2007, 7:48 a.m. CST


    by Col. Tigh-Fighter


  • Feb. 22, 2007, 7:48 a.m. CST

    See what I did there? Clever me!

    by Col. Tigh-Fighter


  • Feb. 22, 2007, 7:50 a.m. CST




  • Feb. 22, 2007, 7:52 a.m. CST

    Now thats FU'd. Its timed my posts wrong! Shocking

    by Col. Tigh-Fighter

    Knew this would be a bit ropey. Its one of those lame premises that sounds better on paper. Mr Schumacher should stick to Teen Vampires and Drag Queens. <p> Had great hopes for Jim, though. After Man on the Moon, the guy can do anything. May watch this, may not. Meh

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 7:54 a.m. CST

    Why do people keep fucking up twist endings...

    by raw_bean

    ...when there are so many examples of the right way to do it (see the three Mass mentioned) available?

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 7:59 a.m. CST

    Fight Club's ending was as bad as Matchstick Men.

    by rbatty024

    He shot himself in the head. God, that was stupid! It just stinks of a writer having no clue how to solve a problem he's written himself into. It's one notch above "it was all a dream."

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 8:04 a.m. CST

    Massa, you are far too kind on this piece of shit!

    by Klaus Herzog

    "The Number 23" is one of the worst thrillers I have ever seen. The plot is ridicolous and makes no fucking sense whatsoever. It really makes the impression that they forgot to film some scenes from the script. And almost the worst thing about it is: The whole 23-mystery-thing has no signifigance whatsoever. Jim Carrey must have been on some serious medication when he agreed to do this. Joel Schumacher you old cunt, you done it again.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 8:09 a.m. CST

    Hey Mass. Is it plot holes, or thinks its too clever?

    by Col. Tigh-Fighter

    I hate plot holes or smug writing. Donnie Darko thought it was sooooo clever with its time-travel, but the theory was so lame and convelouted. Batman Begins was great until the microwave divice that whas turning the LSD water into gas, jumped through the water-filled people until it reached the water in the pipes!! D'oh. <p> Flames in space in Amageddon = nipple on batman. <p> Just how silly are these plotholes??

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 8:12 a.m. CST

    rbatty024, I thought Matchstick Men's ending . . .

    by Nice Marmot

    . . . was better than Fight Club's. Fight Club was just so damn cool, I just overlooked the shot in the head part & watched buildings blow up to The Pixies. On to this 23 flick,I think it looks like crap, but my wife is dragging me out to see it. Can't wait to see Schumacher's brilliant black light usage on the big screen once again. . .

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 8:16 a.m. CST

    Yet another good idea wasted

    by amrisharmpit

    This would have made a great Twilight Zone episode back in the day.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 8:22 a.m. CST

    Nice Marmot, thanks dude, i'd almost forgot about...

    by Big_Bubbaloola

    his use of black light! *Shudder*

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 8:25 a.m. CST

    Fight Club's twist ending was a piece of crap

    by dale_cooper

    The Tyler Durden-is-part-of-you thing only works until you realize it undermines the entire existence of the fight club. You really think this massive national movement would spring up from guys seeing somebody beating himself up in a parking lot? I suspect most people react the same way when they see someone hitting himself in a public place: they assume he's crazy and homeless, and try not to stare too much as they head on down the road to Starbucks. Nobody goes over and says, "Say, that hitting yourself thing looks great! Is there some kind of organization we can start together?" It's ridiculous. The fact that they threw a scene in trying to explain it makes it even worse - it just underlines how ridiculous it is. The gunshot ending is genius by comparison, and yeah, it was totally a copout. Please folks, don't compare this movie to "Memento" any more.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 8:33 a.m. CST

    Matchstick Men was such a kick in the balls

    by Franklin T Marmoset

    I think that may be my most hated ending of a film I was really enjoying up until that point. Assholes.<p>On the Fight Club thing, I'll accept that the imaginary friend aspect worked much better in the book (when you didn't have to actually see the narrator fighting with himself), but the gunshot thing is great. How else is a self-destructive character finally going to hit bottom? The whole book is about a guy who is, figuratively, killing himself, so the suggestion that the ending comes from a lack of imagination seems to miss the point a bit.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 8:34 a.m. CST


    by misnomer

    fight club stands up to scrutiny on second viewing after the big reveal. in the same way 6th sense also stands up on second viewing. Schumacher is a pretty average director who got lucky with "the lost boys"...but that said I don't think he's awful (despite crimes against batman) and Ill be sure to check this out at the cinema tomorrow. It is Febuary after fuzz, ghost rider, number 23....not that bad for this time of year.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 8:34 a.m. CST

    Bat Nipples Gotta Eat!!!

    by boba_rob

    Looking forward to this movie, despite the so-so review.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 8:36 a.m. CST

    the way fight club ended was great

    by misnomer

    how else could they have ended it? I hate this movie- it makes me have to make up my own mind!

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 8:45 a.m. CST

    Just wondering

    by Napoleon Park

    Okay, if 23 is Wilson and 42 is Adams, where are the other "Lost" numbers from? Anyone know?

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 9:05 a.m. CST


    by Squashua

    4 more

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 9:09 a.m. CST

    Lost Numbers

    by Squashua

    16 is twice 8 which is twice 4. 15 may have been arbitrary.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 9:10 a.m. CST

    Col. Tigh-Fighter

    by brassai2003 me monsieur....

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 9:12 a.m. CST

    More Lost Numbers

    by Squashua 23rd post is gonna get sniped beeyotches.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 9:12 a.m. CST


    by Squashua


  • Feb. 22, 2007, 9:26 a.m. CST

    Nicely done Squasha

    by Lawguy

    So - Do I see this movie or not?

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 9:35 a.m. CST

    Am I.........

    by skimn


  • Feb. 22, 2007, 9:37 a.m. CST

    Did Squasha get sniped?

    by just pillow talk

    Just checking...<p>Sounds like a rental for the first 2/3 of the movie.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 9:39 a.m. CST

    Damn my

    by skimn

    crappy math skills!!!Was Carrey itching to work with Sclockmaker, cause wasn't he considered for Phone Booth?

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 9:40 a.m. CST

    Brassai. Lol. I shot first, like Greedo

    by Col. Tigh-Fighter

    Punished for stealing my thunder yesterday. *makes whip crack*

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 9:44 a.m. CST

    You're surprised it sucked? Really?

    by Garbageman33

    Every time I saw this preview, I heard at least some and usually lots of chuckles. "It's all 23!" I'm laughing just thinking about it.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 9:50 a.m. CST

    I meant Schlockmaker...ooooops

    by skimn

    !And Flatliners had a great premise that ultimately sucked.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 9:50 a.m. CST

    the number 23 doesn't always add up...

    by jig98

    i have followed jim carrey's career all the way back to in living color and basically he's just one of the very many comic actors who can't be seen doing serious strange stuff. if the mask was more serious than it really was, then yeah. then, basically it would work. he did a great andy kaufman impression in the man on the moon and did ok in the majestic though. i have no real excitement for this because i kind of liked the "two fucked up batmans" and enjoyed the hell out of "phone booth", but this may just have that certain something that all movies like this have but take a while to get.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 10:05 a.m. CST

    No snipeage for me.

    by Squashua

    Made it on the dot. I just never understand why everyone insists on dropping the second "u" from my username.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 10:11 a.m. CST

    my bad, thought your "u" got sniped off

    by just pillow talk

    Glad to see you are still whole SquashUa.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 10:23 a.m. CST

    my review

    by JoeyRusso1290

    can be read @

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 10:25 a.m. CST

    where can it be read?

    by just pillow talk

    I can't find it Joey....

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 10:31 a.m. CST

    These Movies Never Make Much Sense

    by DarfurOnTheRocks

    Oh look! It's the number 23. 2+3 is 5. 2X3 is 6. But what do we have here?! (2+3)(2x3) is 30! Things are getting interesting now.... Now 30-23 is 7! That is the 7 deadly sins! And 3-2 is 1. I am that one that commits ALL the 7 deadly sins! Oh my GAWD!!!!

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 10:33 a.m. CST

    Yeah Joey, help us out

    by ManosTHOF

    Can't find the link! Seriously, the main drawback of this film is Joel Schumacher. The trailer reminds me of "8MM". Is there enough neon in it? That's what I need to know.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 10:36 a.m. CST

    So it's like that John Cusack movie?

    by rev_skarekroe

    The one where he's stuck in the motel with all these people? And fnord it's a cool concept, except for the dumb "twist" which I managed to figure out DURING THE OPENING CREDITS?

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 10:41 a.m. CST

    You figured out the twist in the opening credits?

    by Garbageman33

    I figured it out from the preview. What took you so long?

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 11:28 a.m. CST

    fight club ended amazinglya

    by triplefive

    and the book's ending was even better. now i'm off to lunch. bitches.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 11:29 a.m. CST

    What's the twist?

    by mbeemer

    I'm lazy, and I'm not going to see the film. Let me guess - his wife's the killer?

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 11:50 a.m. CST

    Does this one include Fluorescent Gang Members?

    by Freefinger

    Remember how Shumy ridiculed the whole Batman Franchise by involving glow-in-the-dark Gang Members? Man, now that was comedy! Imagine walking down a dark alleyway in NY city at midnight and suddenly you can see a glowing light, you realize that it's a fierce gang of thugs that wear fluorescent shorts and caps, and pencilled stupid lines on themsleves.<P>Now that would be funny! "Gimme your money!.. oh.. no.. wait... Where did you get that incredible looking outfit bro? It just brings your eyes out!" MOUAHAHAHAHAHHAAHH! <P>Schumy = Nippples on the bat suit... Litteraly...

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 11:54 a.m. CST

    or like Jacob's Ladder

    by just pillow talk

    poor Timmy...

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 4:48 p.m. CST

    'Falling Down'

    by JohnRevik

    Best Schumacher movie. 'These boots are made for stomping queeers'. Classic.

  • Feb. 22, 2007, 6:57 p.m. CST

    The LOST numbers:

    by Vegas

    :are the numbers retired at Fenway Park. 42 is not a Douglas Adams reference, it's Jackie Robinson's number.

  • Feb. 23, 2007, 12:27 a.m. CST

    Any Number Can Be Found Repeatedly...

    by Professor Krapp

    ...if you go looking for it. Nothing mystical or supernatural about it. As for the movie, I think the public's had it with Jim Carrey, but maybe I'm wrong. I find him likeable and all, but I don't make an effort to see his movies any more. I don't think he'll move into drama any easier than Robin Williams, but I may be wrong. The Professor isn't always right, and readily admits to being wrong when it happens.

  • Feb. 23, 2007, 5:52 a.m. CST

    Too bad

    by Venkie007

    ..........that the corner animation hasnt been changed yet!!!