by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

As I was preparing to pop this DVD in, I was doing my usual preparation, familiarizing myself with the filmmaking team. I noticed that Numb was written and directed by Harris Goldberg. The name meant nothing to me, so I looked up his page at IMDb and got depressed.

The earliest known examples of human writing date back to about 3000 or 3500 BC, when three written languages seem to have suddenly emerged almost simultaneously in Sumeria, Egypt and the Indus Valley. In all the time since, humans across the globe have expelled an immeasurable quantity of words and symbols, yet it could reasonably be argued from Goldberg's IMDb page that he is the worst writer in that entire scope of humankind's written history, possibly excepting those two guys who wrote Epic Movie and a couple of anonymous Mesopotamians who collaborated on the first primitive script about a rebel cop who lives by his own code rather than the code of Hammurabi.

Once they got a written code of law, the Mesopotamians were big "law and order" guys, but I can't really blame their more unorthodox cops for not wanting to fill out the paperwork. Forms are so time-consuming when you have to use a chisel.

As for Goldberg, he wrote The Master of Disguise, an ill-fated Dana Carvey vehicle about a man named Pistachio who can do a lot of voices and impressions, many very similar to the ones normally done by Dana Carvey, but also others which seem to have been inspired by studying Salvador Dali paintings while on LSD. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the film pulled off the rare perfect score - unanimously negative reviews from the top critics. To be honest, it may have been a bit overrated at 0%, but our primitive human mathematics can't find a way to describe a percentage less than zero. Let's just say it was a very low zero, sort of like the showbiz equivalent of absolute zero. The 25 major critics who panned it didn't withhold their recommendations with some ambivalence. They crushed it. Ebert awarded a single star. The BBC described a screening without a single laugh. The Hollywood Reporter said, "About as unfunny as unfunny gets. Even its fart jokes are below the industry standard." The New York Daily News said, "The film contains no good jokes, no good scenes."

You can imagine the level of enthusiasm I had for the latest effort from the same writer.

It turns out that I was very, very wrong. Goldberg is actually a good writer, and it's an excellent script: quite funny, but also straight from the heart.

Here's the story.

Goldberg was a child prodigy, entertainment style. He lied about his age in order to become a stand-up comedian at age 14, and he sold his first Hollywood-style script when he was only 21. Over the ensuing years (he's only 35 now), he was rewarded so handsomely for writing artificial high-concept crap that he just kept churning it out, pocketing the checks and (presumably) ignoring the reviews. Inside of his head, however, he was nurturing a story worth telling. His own. He suffered from a type of mental disorder called depersonalization, in which his life didn't seem real to him, as if he were watching himself on TV all the time. He went through several shrinks. Some of them prescribed various pharmacological therapies, often in direct contradiction to what others had recommended earlier. One female shrink fell in love with him. Meanwhile, he loved and lost his soul-mate for a variety of reasons centering around his own lack of self-esteem. Somewhere along the road, Goldberg realized that his own existence was filled with the very kind of comedy he should be writing, the kind that derives its humor from real life. He wrote Numb, a thinly-disguised autobiography, in which he changed very little in moving the story from his life to the page, other than the names of the characters. He told the truth, even when it portrayed him as a fool.

The suits were sufficiently impressed to buy the script and to let Goldberg direct it himself.

TV superstar Matthew Perry got his hands on the script and aggressively pursued the lead. Goldberg wasn't sure Perry was the right guy to be his on-screen alter ego, but he came to trust Perry's talent and his desire to deliver the role without falling back on Chandler Bing. Goldberg was right about that, as he was right about the merit of his script. Perry worked hard to tone down his own personality, to study the character, and to listen to the writer/director. He delivered an effective and affective performance in a difficult role as a peculiar, distant, but not unlikable man.

There is some sad news within the success story. When Goldberg was writing crap, he was making a lot of money for himself and his studios. Even the ignominious Master of Disguise grossed $40m. Now that he has created something worthwhile, he can't fit it into a commercial niche. Numb made the rounds of many film festivals, including Cannes, and it drew some very enthusiastic plaudits from IMDb commenters for its honest and accurate portrayal of depersonalization disorder, as well as for its ability to touch people personally, and even for its entertainment value. But no distributors were willing to gamble on a theatrical run. Too personal. Too small. So Numb will be a straight-to-DVD film, to be released in May of 2008, more than a year after it premiered at Tribeca.

It deserves better, but that's our world. People are saving their hard-earned dollars for Master of Disguise 2: the Wrath of Pistachio.


* widescreen anamorphic, 1.85

* whatever







No major reviews online.


7.6 IMDB summary (of 10)
A- Yahoo Movies




No theatrical release. About ten film festivals, then straight to DVD.




  • Holly Eglinton bares all as a stripper.
  • Mary Steenbergen is naked in a sex scene, but the camera is behind her and her bum is under the covers, so there's really no nudity at all.
  • There is a porn actress topless in a film-within-the-film.



Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:

high C or C+

Very worthwhile for an unheralded film.