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`Zero Effect' adds up to good time

Sure, it's too hip by half, its original inspiration goes uncredited and it's hardly groundbreaking work, but there's something very appealing about "Zero Effect."

Maybe it's the talented cast (which includes Bill Pullman, Ben Stiller and Ryan O'Neal). Or maybe it's the notion that someone could take Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and update them for the '90s.For whatever reason, this blackly comedic mystery/thriller works a lot more often than it fails. At the very least it oozes more earnestness than other recent movie mysteries. And though it's not as good as "Grosse Pointe Blank," which it recalls at times, it's certainly a refreshing debut from writer/director Jake Kasdan.

The Holmes tale this talented newcomer (son of screenwriter and filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan), has adapted in his own peculiar way is "A Scandal in Bohemia," and his Holmes is agoraphobic P.I. Daryl Zero (Pullman).

Playing Watson to this drug-addicted and psychotic yet brilliant mess is Steve Arlo (Stiller), who serves as frontman for him and has to do much of the dirty work. Their newest client is Gregory Stark (Ryan O'Neal), an Oregon timber tycoon who is being blackmailed.

Stark hires the two to find the keys to a safe-deposit box that contains incriminating evidence. And, posing as an accountant who works out in the same gym as Stark, Daryl quickly finds the culprit, a pretty paramedic named Gloria Sullivan (Kim Dickens).

But as he delves into Gloria's past, the ever-observant and equally objective detective also begins to have feelings for her (gulp!). Meanwhile, the long-suffering Arlo finally decides he's had enough and tries to summon the force of will to quit.

What happens next probably won't surprise many audiences, but at least it's a pretty wild ride getting there - though the film is at least 10 minutes too long.

As for the cast, Pullman is great as he changes gears from loony to normal, and Stiller is equally good playing straightman for a change. Even O'Neal is effective, playing a heavy.

"Zero Effect" is rated R for prevalent use of profane language, fist fights and some gunfire, a brief sex scene, brief partial male nudity and brief glimpses at some gory crime scene photos.