Movies: Zero Effect

Somehow I missed this one when it came out in 1998. Probably because I was graduating from college and traveling through Europe and moving into my own place. 1998 was awesome. For me, anyway.

Anyway, this is a kind of cute pseudo-Sherlock Holmes movie featuring Bill Pullman as Daryl Zero, a social misfit who is also a brilliant detective. Ben Stiller plays his Watsonian sidekick Steve Arlo. It's a setup that has a lot of potential, but the movie itself is longer than it really needs to be. Then again, back in 1998 there was still, you know, pacing in movies instead of having everything just sort of thrown at you really fast. Even so, Zero Effect plods a bit in places.

The plot involves a very wealthy Gregory Stark (Ryan O'Neal) having lost his keys. That alone would be funny—a rich guy hiring a detective to find his keys—but there's more to it; one of the keys on the ring is for a safety deposit box, and Stark is being blackmailed by someone who says s/he knows of something in Stark's past. Stark has been paying the blackmailer but wants to cap his losses once and for all by exposing him or her.

It goes from there. Zero, er, zeroes in pretty quickly on an EMT (Kim Dickens) and the obligatory romantic relationship ensues. It's similar to Irene Adler, only this being a modern take, they do actually sleep together.

The movie might've been funnier if there had been more between Stiller and Pullman. As it stands, Zero ends up documenting his cases on his own because his "Boswell" isn't at all interested. On the whole, they don't spend a lot of time together on screen, and Stiller's Arlo has very little to do (except complain) once Zero immerses himself in the case.

Overall, it's a cute movie. I feel like the idea is/was really good but the final product could have used some punching up.

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