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I watched the Zero Effect with Dr. H a few days ago and came to the realization that the JPFmovies original review of this great (yet sleeper) film was piss-poor and the movie deserved better. So here we go.

To Sherlock Holmes, she is always the woman.  I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name.  In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex.  It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler.  All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind.  He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position.  He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer.  They were admirable things for the observer—excellent for drawing the veil from men’s motives and actions.  But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. —Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “A Scandal In Bohemia

I watched the Zero Effect with Dr. H a few days ago and came to the realization that the JPFmovies original review of this great (yet sleeper) film was piss-poor and the movie deserved better.  So here we go.

The Zero Effect is one of my favorite movies probably because it is based on the great Sherlock Holmes short story A Scandal in Bohemia by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as quoted above.  The film stars Bill Pullman as Daryl Zero (Sherlock Homes), a gifted but bizarre private detective who is socially awkward and inept when he is not on the job.  His “Dr. Watson” is portrayed as Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller) a lawyer.  Zero keeps himself locked in his apartment where, like Holmes and his violin, he composes dreadful songs on his guitar and subsists on a diet of tuna, Tab, and amphetamines (Holmes’ drug use included cocaine, morphine and other narcotics).

Put succinctly, the Zero Effect starts out as a case of a tycoon who lost his keys.  The keys turn up in the place where most lost keys are found in between the cushions of the couch.  From there, the story opens up into a tale of blackmail, family secrets and a decades-old murder for hire. 

The film continues to mimic A Scandal in Bohemia.  Zero is retained by Gregory Stark (Ryan O’Neal), a wealthy man who hires Zero to investigate who is blackmailing him.  Likewise, Holmes is retained by his Majesty the King of Bohemia to find some compromising documents involving the King and his indiscretion with “the woman.”  During the investigation, Zero ventures outside of his apartment encountering Gloria Sullivan (Kim Dickens) the film’s Irene Adler (Adler, as we know, was the only woman who had the wit to outdo Holmes, and he loved her for it).  Sullivan is the blackmailer (like Adler) and as the film progresses, they begin to fall in love.  While in the end of the film Zero bests his Adler, but because of his love and admiration for Sullivan, he lets her go with the blackmail money to hide from Stark who alludes to killing her.

There are even more detailed similarities between the ingredients of the Zero Effect and those of A Scandal in Bohemia, featuring the sole romantic imbroglio of Holmes’ career as one can see in the above passage—and a minimal one at that.  Likewise, Daryl Zero experiences the only romantic predicament of his career with Gloria Sullivan—though significantly more explicit which can be attributed to the passage of time between the two works. 

Additionally, both the film and the story use false fires to flush out the blackmailer.  In the story, Watson tells us that “at the signal I tossed my rocket into the room with a cry of “Fire!” The word was no sooner out of my mouth than the whole crowd of spectators, well dressed and ill–gentlemen, ostlers, and servant-maids–joined in a general shriek of “Fire!”  Thick clouds of smoke curled through the room and out at the open window. I caught a glimpse of rushing figures, and a moment later the voice of Holmes from within assuring them that it was a false alarm.”

Ryan O’Neal is instructed by the blackmailer (Sullivan) to pull the first fire alarm he sees after depositing the blackmail money at the drop point where Daryl Zero is waiting to see who emerges from the bathroom with the cash.

Written and directed by Jake Kasdan (son of the famed of Lawrence Kasdan whose career includes such works as Body Heat and Dreamcatcher) and considering the peculiar nature and tenor of the film, the Zero Effect should have a following akin to that of The Big Lebowski or Napoleon Dynamite.  Unfortunately, even though technology now allows film watcher to find virtually any movie with little or no effort thereby turning previously disregarded films into cult classics, fate seems to have passed over the Zero Effect.

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2012 in Movie Reviews

 

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Next in our Rip Torn Series: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)—If Torn was not in this, you would be wise to dodge the film.

Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn) is the owner of “Average Joe’s,” a small and financially disastrous gym with a handful of loyal but non paying members.  When the gym’s mortgage slips into default, the mortgage is purchased by his competitor White Goodman (Ben Stiller), a fitness “sage” and owner of the successful behemoth Globo-Gym across the way.  Average Joe’s has to raise $50,000 in thirty days to redeem the gym’s mortgage otherwise it will become an auxiliary parking garage for Globo-Gym. Attorney Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor (Stiller’s real Wife)) is working on the transaction for White who unsuccessfully attempts to charm her, and she instead develops a rapport with the Average Joe crowd while reviewing its financial records.

 

Average Joe’s employees Dwight (Chris Williams) and Owen (Joel David Moore) and members Steve “the Pirate” (Alan Tudyk), Justin (Justin Long), and Gordon (Stephen Root) initially try to raise the $50,000 with a carwash, but actually lose money in that endeavor.  Gordon reads in Obscure Sports Quarterly about the annual dodgeball tournament in Las Vegas with a $50,000 prize.  The Average Joe crowd bands together and to get a feel for the game, watch a 1950s-era training video narrated by dodgeball legend “Patches” O’Houlihan (in the 50’s film played by Hank Azaria).  Despite watching this black and white reel to reel instructional movie, Average Joe’s is whipped by a Girl Scout troop in the qualifying match, however, due to steroid use by the Scout team, Average Joe’s win by default.

 

Enter Rip Torn.  Aging and wheelchair-bound Patches (Rip Torn) approaches Peter and declares himself the new team coach.  Patches’ has a tough training regimen that includes throwing wrenches, dodging oncoming cars and consistently berating them with outrageous insults.  Kate demonstrates skill at the game and eventually joins the team and is branded a “lesbian” by Patched et al.

 

Patches unique training methods pay off as Average Joe’s manages to advance to the final round against Globo-Gym.  The night before the match, Patches is killed by a falling sign in the casino.  The untimely death is a heavy blow to the team and fear is in the air.  In a moment of weakness, White offers Peter $100,000 for the deed to Average Joe’s which Peter accepts and then tries to skip town. As fate would have it, Peter runs into Lance Armstrong at the airport—who has been following the tournament on ESPN’s 8 “The Ocho,” and expresses his hope that Peter & Co. beat Globo-Gym.  Peter confesses to Armstrong that he is quitting and Armstrong wishes him well and hopes that this incident does not haunt Peter for the rest of his life.  Peter decides to play but arrives too late as  Average Joe’s has already forfeited.  Gordon finds a loophole in the rules that can overturn the forfeiture by vote of the judges, and (thank you) Chuck Norris casts the tie-breaking vote to allow the team to play.

 

 

After a fierce game, Peter and White face off in a sudden death match to determine the winner. Inspired by a vision of Patches, Peter blindfolds himself and is able to dodge White’s throw and strike him, winning the championship and the prize money and  Peter opens youth dodgeball classes at Average Joe’s, while White becomes morbidly obese by drowning his sorrows in junk food.

 

Like I said in the title, without Torn as Patches, this movie would not be half as funny as it is.  There is no way I am going to sit here and tell you that this movie is for everybody and I’m sure many highbrow types will see it as a juvenile.  Cameos from Hasselhoff, Norris, Shatner and Lance Armstrong are all amusing and, just like Best in Show, commentators Gary Cole and Jason Bateman do great job as second rate sports analysts and have some great lines between them.

Rip Torn was the main reason I looked forward to this film, and after it was over my anticipation was vindicated.  If only this movie were about his character “Patches O’Houlihan,” then it would unquestionably deserve its large success.  Pretty much everything involving Patches works extremely well; and works for both the Hank Azaria and the Rip Torn versions of the character. In fact Torn has some of the greatest comedy and dialogue bits I have seen in some time. “No, but I do it anyway because it’s sterile and I like the taste” or “You’ve got to grab it [Dodgeball] by its haunches and hump it into submission.”

While more original than most, you do know the ending before it happens, the savvy watcher evens knows most of the jokes and the dialog was probably written as a prequel to most of the comedies of the relatively recent past.  As I have said before, Hollywood ran out of ideas around the mid-Nineties and has to look to its successful past to get “new” material for the future by repackaging them for an unassuming public.  The worst part of my analysis is that most of the viewing public is ignorant of this scheme and seem to resign themselves to such a fate by not investigating older movies and truly comedic films that deserve their money and attention.  Which is what we here at JPFmovies are all about.

Despite my mixed review and general bitching, I do like this movie—mainly because of Rip Torn.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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The Zero Effect–Out of the Dung Heap and Into the Rose Garden.

The Zero Effect is one of my favorite movies probably because it is based on the great Sherlock Holmes short story A Scandal in Bohemia by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The film stars Bill Pullman as Daryl Zero (Sherlock Homes), a gifted but strange private detective who is socially awkward and inept.  His “Dr. Watson” is portrayed as Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller).  Zero keeps himself locked in his apartment where, like Holmes and his violin, he composes dreadful songs on his guitar and subsists on a diet of tuna, Tab, and amphetamines (Holmes’ drug use included morphine and other narcotics).

Paralleling A Scandal in Bohemia, Zero is retained by Gregory Stark (Ryan O’Neal), a wealthy man who hires Zero to investigate who is blackmailing him.  During the investigation Zero ventures outside of his apartment encountering Gloria Sullivan (Kim Dickens).  Gloria is based on the character Irene Adler, the only woman who had the wit to outdo Holmes, and he admired her for it.  Sullivan is the blackmailer (like Adler) and as the film progresses, they begin to fall in love.  While in the end of this movie Zero bests his Adler, because of his love and admiration for Sullivan he lets her go to leave the country with the blackmail money and hide from Stark who alludes to killing her.

This film was sort of a sleeper by mainstream Hollywood box office standards.  I give it a rose.  What gets this movie out of the dung heap is probably because I loved Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia as well as Zero’s eccentricities.  The movie’s storyline is much more interesting than most of the garbage seen in today’s films, network TV shows and porno movies.
I was also glad to see Ryan O’Neal again in something decent since the last time he starred in anything pleasing was Irreconcilable Differences (1984), Green Ice (1981) and So Fine (1981), all three in my opinion classics.

Zero Effect is well worth watching and if you have half a brain you won’t  want your two hours back.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2009 in Movie Reviews

 

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