Sam Strange Remembers: THE NUMBER 23

How to lose friends through numerology.

When I was a wee innocent youngster, I went to a taping of Sesame Street. The episode I saw filmed was sponsored by the Number 23. After the taping, we got to shake hands with the performers. The guy who played 23 had sweaty hands and one of those weird, chunky fingernails. I have distrusted this number ever since.

The number follows me everywhere. Did you know that with every large group of prison inmates, it is possible to break them all into groups of twos and threes with no more than one straggler left over? Did you know that Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison all died at age 27, which is only 4 years from age 23? Did you know that if you buy a bundle of grapes, there is a 1 in 23 chance that your bundle will have 23 grapes? Even if your TV gets 2,300 channels, you will only actually watch 23 of them.

All these coincidences (actually, only 23 of them) started making me crazy. Everyone around me raised their concerns for my insane math skills. So I made a movie to show them what it was like to be haunted by the Number 23. It's called The Number 23. It is 230 minutes long, only 23 good ones, though.

The Number 23 stars Jim Carrey as a goofy, lovable dog catcher who lives in a world where goofy, lovable dog catchers exist. One day (February 3=23), he meets a dog named Ned (14+5+4=23). Ned is a spirit dog, which means he can lead you to the graves of people you killed but don't remember killing. Unfortunately, it's Jim Carrey's first day on the job. He doesn't know that it's a bad idea to put your arm in a dog's mouth. So the dog bites him with its 23 teeth, and it's a total 23 on the pain scale.

Jim Carrey grabs a shotgun and chases after the dog, who, true to his nature, leads him to the grave of a lady he killed but can't remember killing. Suddenly the dog's owner appears and tells Jim Carrey that "Ned" is just the dog's nickname. His real name is Guardian of the Dead. But that's just the name the dog got at Ellis Island. His Old World name is Jiezakabashtanoniasmith. All Jim Carrey knows is that he can't kill a dog in front of his owner, so he runs away.

All this dog stuff makes him late to pick up his wife. In her boredom, she browses through a bookstore and finds an interesting novel called "The Number 23," written by Topsy Kretts, a name only 23 people don't roll their eyes at.

The book's really short so she reads it in only 23 minutes and figures it would make a nice present for Jim Carrey because he's not the fastest reader in the world. Little does she know, she's just playing into 23's evil, nearly two dozen-fingered hands.

Jim Carrey starts reading the book at a rate of about 23 syllables per 23 minutes. Even at this speed, it's not long before he begins seeing himself in the main character, Fingerling Valgina. For instance, Fingerling Valgina lived next to a dog as a child. Jim Carrey once saw a dog as a child. Fingerling Valgina is a detective. Jim Carrey loves CSI. Fingerling Valgina plays the saxophone. Jim Carrey wears a fanny pack and bites his lower lip when he dances.

Fingerling's story is quite intriguing. It all begins on December 23 (12+23-12=23), when Valgina must talk down a suicidal lady. It turns out the girl wants to kill herself because she is infected with the Number 23. She sees it everywhere. It wasn't so bad at first, but then she realized that if you math hard enough, every number ends up being 23. Then things really got crazy when she decided 32 counted as well since it's 23 backwards. Before long she was deemed too annoying to work with or have as a friend, so she decided to kill herself. But before she does, she shoots Fingerling with a gun that fires bullets shaped like the Number 23, thus infecting him with the infatuation as well.

So now Fingerling Valgina sees 23 everywhere. He also sees his sexy girlfriend making eyes with another dude. So he stabs her 23 times. She's still not dead, so he puts a pillow over her head because any more stabbings would totally ruin his 23 thing. Similarly, he does this in room 23 of a hotel. The guy at the front desk wanted to give him room 27, but Fingerling insisted on 23 because otherwise he might look like just another crazy asshole.

It takes Jim Carrey 23 weeks to finish the book, and by the time he's done, he too is infected with the Number 23. Now it's his turn to do lots of math and figure out how much this number can ruin your life if you really want it to. One day during the month of Durember (the 23rd month of the Xavinox calendar), he finds himself confronted by that dog, Jiezakabashtanoniasmith.

"I can talk, but I can only say twenty three words, and twenty three counts as two words," the dog says.

"What do you want?"

"Fingerling Valgina is really you."

Jim Carrey is like: "Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!" Then he finally shoots the dog.

So Jim Carrey does a little digging with his 23 shovels and realizes that 23 years ago, he did in fact work as a tough guy detective who did in fact kill his girlfriend and then tried to commit suicide only to knock out all of his memories instead, as well as his ability to ever age.

Confronted by this horrible past, Carrey is like: "Yes! Now I can play the saxophone!" But it turns out Fingerling Valgina only liked to hold saxophones pensively. He couldn't actually play one. So Jim Carrey does the only sensible thing: He writes 46: The Number 23 Part 2 and has it turned into a hit film in hopes of infecting the world with the number. It didn't work.

(three stars)