Reviewed by: Kimberley McKaig
Starring: Bill Pullman, Ben Stiller, Ryan O'Neal, Kim Dickens, Angela Featherstone, Hugh R. Ross / Director: Jake Kasdan / Released by: Columbia Pictures
Bill Pullman’s last incarnation was as U.S. prez in the 1996 summer blockbuster “Independence Day.” Now, Pullman is back onscreen in “Zero Effect” as one of the screwiest Private Eyes you ever clapped eyes on. Daryl Zero, “The World’s Most Private Detective,” lives in Howard Hughes-esque seclusion in a Los Angeles hi-rise, surrounded by high-tech sleuthing gadgets, and a king’s ransom in Tab and Campbell Soup. Meeting the wild-haired, wild-eyed Zero in his unnatural habitat suggests that this guy probably will need a representative to the real world of potential clients. Enter Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller) lawyer-turned-front-man, and high-paid gopher for the reclusive but brilliant P.I. Daryl Zero is a mass of neuroses, devoid of the most rudimentary interpersonal skills, who ventures outside his lair only when simulating the character he wishes he might be, a suave, sophisticated man-about-town who woos the girls and wows the guys, all the while effortlessly interpreting inscrutable clues to solve the case. As himself, Zero tends to angst, cocaine, and mournful guitar solos while standing unsteadily on his long unmade bed.
Enter the client, (Ryan O'Neal) a well-fed tycoon with a fabulous office and his very own blackmailer. Arlo shuttles back and forth between O'Neal in Portland, Oregon and Zero’s L.A. digs. Obviously, in order to have a blackmailer, one must have not just money, but a secret; O'Neal isn’t telling his, he just wants to catch and be rid of the blackmailer. Zero, donning his outside persona jets to Portland to solve the puzzle, and ferrets out an unlikely blackmailer, pert Kim Dickens, a dedicated paramedic who spends her free time volunteering at a home for the disabled. The charming felon and the brilliant but eccentric Private Eye develop a relationship of sorts, a first for Zero. His attempts at being himself while outside his penthouse safety nest are a study in sweet awkwardness.
“Zero Effect” writer/director Jake Kasdan met Pullman when he (Pullman) was playing second fiddle to William Hurt in “The Accidental Tourist”, directed by young Jake’s dad, Lawrence Kasdan. Pullman became fast friends with Jake and the rest of the Kasdan clan. At age 23, Jake wrote this screenplay especially for Pullman. The junior Kasdan says Pullman is Zero: if so, then the actor has more dimensions than a funhouse hall of mirrors, and you’ll see all of them in “Zero Effect”.
There is one love scene and quite a bit of language. There probably are hidden messages and the show certainly doesn’t represent a Christian worldview, but I found it relatively inoffensive, and surprisingly entertaining. I wouldn’t even be embarrassed going with friends, no mean feat in today’s entertainment climate.