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In Brief: "The Zero Effect" and "Sphere"

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The first movie written and directed by young Jake Kasdan, The Zero Effect, turns out to be a surprisingly intense comedy about a sort of modern-day, digital Sherlock Holmes. Bill Pullman, of the cringing demeanor, plays the world’s greatest private eye, a shambling, neurotic genius, immensely needy, entirely guarded, a man who acts with dauntless savoir faire out in the field only to retire to a vaultlike apartment filled with Tab and enormous bags of pretzels. This super-nerd, with his assistant (Ben Stiller), undertakes to protect a rich predator (Ryan O’Neal, who is very good) from blackmail. The movie’s comic tone is productively unstable -- sneakily funny, discordant, at times romantic, filled with a young man’s love of the uncanny and the endless power of cool. . . . At the end of Sphere, the three principals -- Dustin Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sharon Stone -- agree, for the good of humanity, to forget everything that has happened to them in the movie up to that point. This is a pact I can only rush to join, and with exactly the same motive. There are some things that humankind is just better off not knowing about.


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