The Number 23 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not subject to any significant flaws, the transfer seemed less stellar than I’d like.
New Line packed a lot of material onto this disc, and sharpness took a minor hit. Although much of the movie looked reasonably concise and accurate, the image could be a little iffy on occasion. This softness wasn’t strong, but it seemed slightly distracting at times. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I noticed a smidgen of edge enhancement. Source flaws were absent.
23 delivered very distinctive tones. Much of the movie went with a red-dominated palette, and sickly greens also cropped up on many occasions. Some of the Fingerling bits favored more of a blown-out, desaturated look. These colors were all over the place but the DVD delivered them as intended by the filmmakers. Unfortunately, blacks were too dense, and shadows also tended to be thick. I thought the image seemed a little too dark at times. All of this ended up as a satisfactory transfer but not one that excelled.
On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack of The Number 23 consistently worked well. The soundfield opened up to engulf us in Walter’s paranoia and insanity. Various elements cropped up from the surrounds and the sides to lead us inside his head, and the track made sure these combined smoothly. More mundane effects also showed good placement and involvement. The various channels formed a fine sense of place and added to the story.
In addition, the quality of the audio satisfied. Speech was natural and concise, with no edginess or other issues. Music was dynamic and bold, while effects showed similar characteristics. Range seemed very good, and low-end was strong and tight. This was a pretty nice soundtrack.
For this infinifilm release of 23, we get an extensive roster of extras. We open with an audio commentary from director Joel Schumacher. He provides a running, screen-specific piece. The director covers cast and performances, the “Number 23 Enigma” and themes, sets and locations, visual design and effects, and a few other tidbits.
A veteran of these commentaries, Schumacher knows what to do, and that experience shows. He remains a very chatty presence as he discusses his film, and he makes sure we get a nice overview of the flick and its important areas. Though this never becomes a truly fascinating chat, it does what it needs to do.
Another option to accompany the movie arrives via the Fact Track. This text commentary uses the subtitle area as it provides small factoids that appear throughout the flick. It covers subjects such as aspects of the production, facts about the actors and others involved, and concepts depicted in the flick. For instance, we learn a little about numerology, dog-catching, and various psychological disorders.
Most of the “Fact Tracks” that accompany infinifilm DVDs lack much content, and this one doesn’t improve immensely on that state. However, I think it’s better than most of its predecessors. Those tended to suffer from too little information; large portions of the film would pass without notes. Some dead space still appears here, but the track uses our time in a much more efficient manner. We get a reasonable amount of decent details here, so the “Fact Track” is worth a look.
16 Deleted/Alternate Scenes fill a total of 14 minutes, 28 seconds. These include “Alternate Opening” (1:50), “Walter Chases Ned” (0:19), “Nathaniel’s Institute” (1:22), “Walter in Bedroom with Book” (0:51), “Engine Problems” (0:45), “Spying on the Suicide Blonde” (1:08), “More Engine Problems” (0:27), “Empty Truck” (0:15), “Happy Birthday from the Suicide Blonde” (0:35), “Alternate Bookstore Clerk Scene” (1:00), “Emotional Leave” (1:25), “Fingerling Finds Note” (1:15), “The Police Sergeant” (0:52), “Robin Asks About Mailbox” (0:30), “Laura and Kyle Buy Knife” (0:15) and “Alternate Ending” (1:05).
The “Alternate Opening” takes us to the film’s potential conclusion as a way to set up what follows; it’s one way to start the flick, though not necessarily the best one. The “Alternate Ending” is actually more interesting than the used conclusion, if just because it’s less schmaltzy. It adds a slightly ominous note to the finish.
As for the other clips, most remain inconsequential. Many would have been redundant, and others are simply unnecessary. The two “Engine” clips, “Truck” and “Leave” show how Walter’s obsession affects his job and are moderately interesting; other than the “Alternate Ending”, they’re pretty much the only ones that might’ve worked in the final film.
A variety of featurettes appear. The Making of The Number 23 lasts 22 minutes, 19 seconds as it presents the usual mix of movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from Schumacher, producer Beau Flynn, writer Fernley Phillips, and actors Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen, and Lynn Collins. “Making” looks at the script and its path to the screen as well as how Schumacher came onto the project, and casting. From there we learn about characters and performances, the book within the movie and its depiction onscreen, Schumacher’s work, and the film’s tone.
One problem with documentaries on infinifilm DVDs comes from their structure. Since the infinifilm process chops them up into little segments you can watch along with the movie, they tend to be awkward and they don’t always flow well when viewed as a whole.
That creates some jerkiness during “Making”, but the content helps overcome the structural flaws. The program combines into a pretty decent glimpse of the story/character issues and covers them well. It’s a good little show.
Creating the World of Fingerling goes for 11 minutes, 10 seconds and features Schumacher, Carrey, Flynn, Madsen, Phillips, and Intelligent Creatures visual effects production executive Raymond Gieringer. “World” looks at issues like cinematography and visuals, set design, the depiction of the “storybook world”, effects, and other stylistic decisions. “World” complements “Making” with a nod toward the technical side of things. It fleshes out various topics well and becomes another useful piece.
Next comes the 25-minute The 23 Enigma. It presents remarks from Carrey, Schumacher, Phillips, Madsen, Loyola Marymount University Professors of Mathematics Dr. Herbert A. Medina, Dr. Jacqueline M. Dewar and Dr. Michael Berg, numerology expert Josh Siegel, and the OCD Center’s Tom Corboy. This program looks at the numerical concepts behind the movie. We examine things from a mathematical point of view as well as lucky/unlucky numbers, numerology, number-related obsessions and psychology.
Although “Enigma” examines some intriguing ideas, it doesn’t tie things together very well. It tends to flit from one area to another without much clarity, a factor that makes it a little too disjointed. You’ll find some decent information but I’d prefer a show with greater definition.
For the final featurette, we discover How to Find Your Life Path Numbers. It runs 11 minutes as numerologist Glynis McCants teaches us about “life path numbers”, how to calculate them, and what they mean. McCants comes across as a total crackpot – partially because she buys into this nonsense with such intense conviction - and the whole thing sounds absurd. Or maybe I’m just bitter because McCants instructs us poorly; my birthdate numbers come out to “29” and she doesn’t say how to turn that into a “life path number”. I have no life path – no wonder I’m such a damned mess!
The DVD opens with a few ads. We find promos for Mr. Woodcock, Fracture, Snakes on a Plane, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Hard Easy. These also appear in the DVD’s trailers area along with the clip for 23 itself.
Despite some appealing aspects, The Number 23 is just not a very interesting movie. While it has the components to turn into something compelling, it never quite gets there, and it ends up as fairly dull and forgettable. The DVD offers decent picture along with excellent audio and a nice collection of extras. I can’t complain about this solid release, but the movie itself leaves me cold.