This quirky, funny, engrossing, very-much-worth-taping 1998 film provided perennial nice guy Bill Pullman (While You Were Sleeping, Lake Placid) with perhaps his greatest role - that of the scruffy, anti-social, maddeningly brilliant private detective Darryl Zero.
Ben Stiller plays his put-upon associate Steve Arlo, who meets potential clients for Zero. Zero refuses to meet any of his clients, and rarely ever even leave the house, but his skills as a detective are undeniable. He drives Arlo mad however with his bizarre quirks and eccentricities.
The plot has him investigating a case of blackmail involving a rich businessman (Ryan O'Neal) with something to hide, and a fetching paramedic (Kim Dickens) with secrets of her own.
Zero Effect can be enjoyed simply as a well-made mystery, but is far more successful as a hilarious study of a truly peculiar character. The cast members are all in exceptional form, but Pullman more than steals the show. And it's a rare pleasure to see Ben Stiller tone it down a notch and let someone else steal the show.
Interestingly, Zero Effect was the basis for a television series pilot made in 2002, with Alan Cumming (X-Men 2; Spy Kids) as Zero. The film's director writer/director Jake Kasdan (Freaks and Geeks, Orange County, son of multi-Oscar nominee Lawrence) directed the pilot, but it was unfortunately not picked up for a series.
Do yourself a favour and set the video recorder. Or heck, it's Friday, stay up late and you'll be heartily rewarded.