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Zero Effect (1998)



Average Rating: 6.6/10
Reviews Counted: 47
Fresh: 30 | Rotten: 17

A promising debut for writer/director Jake Kasdan, Zero Effect overcomes its flaws with its off-kilter humor and likeable leads.


Average Rating: 6.1/10
Critic Reviews: 11
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 6

A promising debut for writer/director Jake Kasdan, Zero Effect overcomes its flaws with its off-kilter humor and likeable leads.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 7,655

My Rating

Movie Info

Jake Kasdan made his feature film directorial debut with this oblique thriller about eccentric private detective Daryl Zero (Bill Pullman) and his sardonic front man partner Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller). After the two are hired by blackmail victim Gregory Stark (Ryan O'Neal), Zero sets up a sting operation and soon focuses on his suspect, Gloria Sullivan (Kim Dickens), a woman he met at a health club. Thinking Zero is an accountant, she asks him to look over her tax return. Clues form a trail to

Jul 7, 1998

Warner Home Video

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All Critics (63) | Top Critics (14) | Fresh (30) | Rotten (17) | DVD (11)

There's an idiosyncratic talent at work here with the potential to blossom into bigger, better and more accomplished films.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Kasdan's is a very promising debut, its own dearth of feeling offset by able writing, engaging playing and a sure sense of pace.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Both Mr. Pullman and the slyly restrained Mr. Stiller keep their characters entertaining even when Mr. Kasdan's interest is elsewhere.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is one of those movies that creeps up on you, insidiously gathering power. By the end, I was surprised how much I was involved.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A strong debut, and a very fun movie.

May 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Daryl Zero is a movie character for the ages.

April 4, 2005 Full Review Source:

A hidden gem.

February 25, 2005
Aisle Seat

A charmingly off-center little film with intriguing plot twists and engaging characters.

April 29, 2004
Nitrate Online

Awesome mystery with quirky characters and great twists.

August 13, 2003

An inspired and off-kilter crime caper that wears its infectious quirkiness like a badge of honor

May 27, 2003
Movie Eye

Not only is it hilarious, but it's a damn good detective story that has fun toying around with all the tired old conventions of the detective story

March 20, 2003 Full Review Source: | Comment (1)

The wryly intelligent, creative script serves the story, the characters and the actors well, never disappointing in ingenuity or opportunities for uncanny comic timing.

June 5, 2002 Full Review Source: Boxoffice Magazine
Boxoffice Magazine

The younger Kasdan stages each scene handsomely, but as a writer he stretches potentially witty snaps into disagreeably languorous melodrama.

March 24, 2002 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

A nifty psychological thriller that puts a few new twists on the well worn detective genre.

March 1, 2002 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

It's very humorous, my companions and I had a great time, and it's interesting. Sorry to be so brief, I'm trying to add a little mystery here!

June 14, 2001 Full Review

Zero Effect is by no means a disastrous debut, but it does make you wonder what the guy might accomplish in his sophomore try.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

If Zero Effect is an indication of Jake Kasdan's promise as a filmmaker, he deserves to be enthusiastically watched...

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

Zero Effect had a light-heartedness that was endearing.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for Zero Effect

Starts off a little slow but once it gets going, it really goes. A thoroughly enjoyable experience.
May 2, 2011

Super Reviewer

A satisfactory entertainer in the veins of Sherlock Holmes.
February 8, 2011

Super Reviewer

Little seen gem, this sleeper phenom is simply a must watch. Pullman is at his best and the character he creates is simply wonderful to behold. Great performances. Excellent brain teaser. Funny. Intriguing. Watch this movie,...NOW.
July 19, 2007

Super Reviewer

Steve Arlo: Why are we talking on the phone?
Daryl Zero: I told you. We can't be too careful. Two guys in an airport... talking? It's a little fishy.

Very cool comedy-noir film.

Bill Pullman stars as Daryl Zero, a detective that predates Monk in being a very quirky detective, when on the job he is amazing. He is very smooth, knows exactly what he is doing, and follows his methods. When put into other situations, he has problems keeping that cool. He is somewhat socially awkward, does drugs, and doesn't really go outside.

Ben Stiller also stars as his sidekick/representative. This was back in the 90s when Ben Stiller was playing in more low budget flicks as smart characters, opposed to the whole neurotic guy thing he's become more known for.

The movie itself is a quirky character comedy with some romantic and dramatic moments, but it is also a good detective story with a well written mystery plot.

The soundtrack is particularly good, combining some choice tunes with a nice and fitting score for the detective theme.

Its a lot of fun just to watch the interplay between Pullman and Stiller, but when Pullman reveals a little more about himself, its great to see a real believable character from another angle.

The plot itself is more something that needs to be seen, so as not to reveal too much of what actually happens, but suffice it to say that the twists unfold rather nicely and in a witty way.

If there is any problem, it is that the movie starts to move slower and focus more on some of the dramatic angles of the story about halfway through, but that doesn't stop this from being a well made, witty detective story, with good characters.

Gregory Stark: Is this your kid?
Steve Arlo: Nope. Just a rental.
July 8, 2007

Super Reviewer

    1. Daryl Zero: A person can't escape their nature.
    – Submitted by Frances H (16 months ago)
    1. Daryl Zero: Passion is the enemy of precision.
    – Submitted by Frances H (16 months ago)
    1. Gloria Sullivan: What doesn't kill you, defines you.
    – Submitted by Frances H (16 months ago)
    1. Steve Arlo: There aren't evil guys and good guys. There are just a bunch of guys.
    – Submitted by Frances H (16 months ago)
    1. Daryl Zero: To assimilate... See how all the ordinary people around you are behaving and try to behave like one of them.
    – Submitted by Frances H (16 months ago)
    1. Steve Arlo: Are you telling me you can speak six languages and fly a jet liner, but you don't know how to file a tax return? It's never come up?
    – Submitted by Frances H (16 months ago)
View all quotes (10)

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