A wonderfully original movie born of a hackneyed genre
Jeremy Smith | Towson, MD USA | 02/21/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jake Kasdan himself, the director of "Zero Effect," admitted that the Detective-Story plot is a Hollywood favorite. Having admitted that, he went on to create one of the best movies I've seen, and certainly the best I've seen in this genre, while at once adhering to the rules of the detective story and creating such a sharp, intelligently written story that it makes you shake your head.There is so much to love about this movie I hesitate to begin. How about with the dialogue? From the first line, the dialogue is precise, subtle and funny. Someone famous once stressed that subtlety is key to lasting humor, and this script is exemplary; it's as funny the tenth time I watch it as it was the first. For once, we get to laugh at the detective hero, to laugh at his human flaws, as well as marvel at his methods.Ben Stiller is a master of the human kettle of frustration, and is a great counterpoint to Pullman's various quirks. I didn't like Stiller much before this film, but have since become a staunch fan thanks to his performance here. Kim Dickens was fantastic, as was the role created for her. Detective movies usually feature a femme fatale with much more to her than meets the eye, but Clarissa is one to beat them all. I'll let it stand at that so as not to ruin any of the plot. And Ryan O'Neal rounds out the main cast with a wonderful portrayal of a white-collar criminal.People accuse me sometimes of taking movies too seriously, but I argue back that my favorites are ones that actually teach me something lasting. As we watch, we solve the mystery along with Daryl Zero, and we learn his methods, similar to reading along to a Sherlock Holmes story (in this case, see "A Scandal in Bohemia"). While the real world of PI's almost always involves following a spouse around to see if they're cheating, one can still learn from this artificial world of blackmail, murder and reprisal. It is true that 'watching someone in their natural habitat can be very telling,' and learning how to be an objective observer ('the 2 obs') is rewarding. There is one scene where Zero makes his assessment of his client after watching him for a day at the gym, and it is absolutely fantastic.I read a review of this film that complained about a thin soundtrack. Kasdan himself addressed the question: he hates, as do I, when a soundtrack tells you how to feel. If there's a love scene, play pretty piano music in the background. If someone's being followed, play music in a sinister minor chord. You get the idea. Can't you make a love scene realer, and more poignant, by playing nothing at all, by letting the rustle of a dress as it falls to the floor stand alone as a supremely erotic noise? Kasdan used music minimally, to accentuate a scene rather than make up for it. Jake Kasdan, in his first solo effort as director, made a film as masterful and quirky as its main character, and at the same time made me hang on to every word while I was stunned time and again at the remarkable plot twists. For that he is to be commended."
The Case of the Movie That's A Lot Like A Sherlock Story
kentuckyreader | Louisville, Kentucky USA | 04/09/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you enjoy Sherlock Holmes, and you haven't seen this picture, you are doing yourself a disservice. As you can note by the many reviews, it is very Sherlockian. No small wonder: it appears to be a retelling of the Holmes story "A Scandal In Bohemia." It borrows the skeleton of the original story - which provides us with the comfortable old paradigm - but it veers from the source material enough to make it feel entirely fresh. Which is cool.Also, it is interesting from a visual standpoint, which lends credibility to Sherlock's quote (from yet another story) that "Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms," considering Jake Kasdan's paternity. In this case, it might be better to amend the quote to "Art in the blood can't help but reveal itself." It's a pretty looking film, and the camera is in the hands of someone who understands how to use it as a narrative device.Even those who haven't read every Sherlock Holmes story available will possibly like this, because I think most people like to watch stories about really, really smart people who figure stuff out . . . particularly when those smart people have a difficult time keeping themselves together, despite their intelligence.The comparison to Sherlock Holmes wouldn't be quite complete without pointing out that this movie is very sequel-worthy ... and I hope that its makers finally arrive at the same conclusion."
SHERLOCK HOLMES AND DR. WATSON / VERSION 1998
wdanthemanw | Geneva, Switzerland | 12/20/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The least one can say about ZERO EFFECT is that the script is very intelligent and reveals the work of a genuine writer. Jake Kasdan has certainly read the adventures of Conan Doyle's super detective Sherlock Holmes with great delight. Like Holmes, bill Pullman likes to teake drugs (amphetamines for Bill, heroin for Sherlock) and to play music (guitar while Holmes had a predilection for violin) when he's out of work. Like Holmes, Bill stays away from women who could deconcentrate him and loves to surprise his audience with his wonderful sense of observation and the amazing logic of his deductions. His only problem : Watson isn't a Doctor but a lawyer who will not (ungrateful Ben Stiller !) write the story of the numerous cases he has solved during his career. So he has to open his PC and do the job himself. The scene in which Bill Pullman tries to find keys in Ryan O'Neal's office is undoubtedly an homage to E. A. POE's detective Auguste Dupin in THE PURLOINED LETTER (1845 !). In fact, nothing new under the sun ! But these references are discreetly hidden in this movie and demands a constant attention in order to appreciate them. ZERO EFFECT is the first movie of Jake Kasdan and I look forward for his next films with great impatience. A DVD to buy and to add to your collection of " unknown great movies ""
P. D. Lenihan | Southwest | 12/05/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Modern version of Sherlock Holmes...with Ben Stiller as Watson. Pullman is electric as the troubled PI. There are some holes in the plot but the overall effect of classic mystery elements & colorful detective in a 1990s setting is well worth checking out. Excellent music; although nothing is made of surround sound and the transfer to dvd is just ok. Technical aspects aside, this is above average fare. Great atmospheric shots of Portland, OR.