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Zero Effect (1998)

September 18, 2009

7/10 Crazy Bosses

Saw this at the recommendation of Cut The Crap reader Mike O’B. So be like Mike and saddle up, readers. Send me those requests! It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Zero Effect is about a brilliant, eccentric, coked-out private eye and his straight-laced assistant that get hired by a white-collar bigwig to find his lost keys. The title refers to the private eye’s memoirs that he narrates to the viewer throughout the movie, because his name is Daryl Zero, and because he does things effectively.

It kind of takes a little while to get into for a number of reasons, but once the Zero starts investigatin’ and the plot thickens up, it ends up being a pretty fun ride.

So, the first reason Zero Effect is kind of hard to get into is because of the actors. Daryl Zero is played by Bill Pullman and his assistant is played by a young Ben Stiller. Today, these two are actually pretty entertaining thanks to Zoolander and Pullman’s bit role in a pretty good movie that no one saw a couple years ago called You Kill Me – check that one out. But back in the day, these two were tolerable at best. Ben Stiller was the embodiment of every mopey yuppie in a black turtleneck during the early ’90s and Bill Pullman was, well, Bill Pullman. I guess I’ve just never been a big fan of Pullman; I think it’s because he squints a lot and makes it painfully clear that he’s trying really, really hard to be cool. Sorry, Bill, but you could choke slam Clint Eastwood while scoring the game-winning touchdown at the Super Bowl and you’d still be remembered as the President from Independence Day.

Then again, the good thing about Zero Effect is that once you get used to the characters and get drawn into the movie, you forget about how much they kind of bothered you to begin with and actually grow to enjoy them; one of the many wonderful things about good character development. No one likes watching a cokehead and a whiny bitch hang out together for two hours, one Act is more than enough time to remind us of that.

But the real draw here is the plot. It’s been a while since I’ve watched a whodunit like this and I found myself legitimately interested in what the hell was going on as seemingly unrelated pieces of the puzzle started coming together. I didn’t really know what to expect from this movie, but I actually had a pretty good time with it. I for one couldn’t write a script like this for the life of me; I’ll stick to fart jokes, thank you very much.

So give it a chance for the first half-hour and if by hour one you’re still not into it, you can probably just move on with your life. It’s got some good writing, a good plot, and hey, the President from Independence Day is in it. It’s also fun comparing Ben Stiller then to Ben stiller now – am I the only one who think he looks like an entirely different person? 

All in all, a good recommendation from Mike O’B. I doubt I would have ever stumbled across Zero Effect otherwise and for that I am forever grateful. What a beautiful thing this movie reviewing gig is.

Awesome poster, too. Bill Pullman actually looks pretty badass. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. mcarteratthemovies permalink
    September 18, 2009 12:19 pm

    Bill Pullman? The guy who romanced Sandra Bullock in “While You Were Sleeping” is a badass? This blows my mindhole. As does Ben Stiller’s visual transformation. Curious.

    • September 18, 2009 12:28 pm

      The poster is badass, that and the idea of Bill Pullman on the poster pumping his fist going, “THIS IS OUR INDEPENDENCE DAY!” Yup, kinda badass.

  2. Darren permalink
    September 19, 2009 6:18 am

    I wanna be cheeky and say that the reason Bill Pullman looks badass is because you can’t see his face, but that’s just mean.
    I saw this movie years ago (one of those ones my dad picked up from the video store because he figured he and Mom liked Bill Pullman and the kids like Ben Stiller, right?) and I just remember… nothing about the movie. Might be worth a rewatch?

    • September 19, 2009 10:05 am

      Haha. Yeah, give it another look. Fun for the whole family.

  3. Marc permalink
    September 21, 2009 3:06 pm

    Wow, talk about a blast from the past…I own this and haven’t seen this movie in years:P I guess this review is a reminder to see it again.

    This movie was a bit of a sleeper and not too many people I know heard about this although I like it probably more than I should. Well written, a little slow at times going but quirky and fun (and a scaled back Stiller) so I’d call that a win. Enjoyable flick! Good review Aiden!

    • September 21, 2009 3:27 pm

      Thanks, Marc. I agree completely. Never heard of this before a few weeks ago, but hey, good movie all the same. Thanks for reading, man.

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