Daryl Zero (Zero Effect)

Created by Jake Kasdan

“Now, a few words on looking for things. When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world, you’re only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you’re sure to find some of them.”
— Daryl Zero expounds…

Eccentric and reclusive DARYL ZERO is a kind of private eye idiot savant, not to mention a drug addict and amateur musician prone to disguises, bizarre personal behavior and outrageous leaps in deduction (sound familiar?) in Zero Effect, a quirky 1998 comedy written and directed by Jake Kasdan.

In the publicity for the flick, Daryl is touted as “The World’s Most Private Detective,” but that’s only scratching the surface. Make no mistake — the guy, as played by Bill Pullman, is a total whackjob.

Playing Watson to Zero’s Holmes is his long-suffering partner and front man, Steve Arlo (a perfectly cast Ben Stiller), a man with plenty of his own problems. but Zero’s galloping paranoia really hops over the fence and his usually sharp mind lights out for the territories when he finds himself falling in love with a beautiful paramedic with a mysterious past who’s more than his match (to Zero, she’ll always be THE woman). His increasingly tortured relationship with Steve and his first romantic involvement serve as major distractions, when he and Steve are hired by a blackmail victim to find his lost keys.

Not hard-boiled, but quite entertaining. When I first reviewed this film, I mentioned that I’d love to see these characters again. And it looks like I had my chance, and they blew it.

There was a television pilot that apparently aired in 2002 on NBC, although I only found out about it years later. It starred Alan Cummings (!!!) in the title role, althought there was no “Arlo” this time out. Instead there was a character called Jeff (played by David Julian Hirsh) whom I assume was the fill-in for Arlo. I certainly hope so–a nutcase like Zero certainly needs a straight man. Alas, it was all for naught, because ultimately, NBC chose not to pick up the series.


Zero Effect was the first feature film by Jake Kasdan, the son of big shot film director Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat, The Big Chill, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Silverado, etc.). A fun flick, with more than a few pointed echoes of Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Scandal in Bohemia.


  • I always say that the essence of my work relies fundamentally on two basic principles: objectivity and observation, or “the two obs” as I call them.”
  • “My work relies on my ability to remain absolutely, purely objective, detached. I have mastered the fine art of detachment. And while it comes at some cost, this supreme objectivity is what makes me, I dare say, the greatest observer the world has ever known.”
    — Daryl lets his humility show


  • “Two thumbs up, way up”
    Siskel & Ebert
  • Zero Effect might possibly be the worst PI movie I’ve ever seen. The opening sequence is so inane that even Ben Stiller, who’ll try anything once just to see if it works, looks embarrassed to be in this turkey. And what was Bill Pullman thinking? God, why would someone like Pullman waste their time making a bomb like this? I’m amazed reviewers stayed in the theater long enough to see the ending credits… I say possibly the worst because 15 minutes into it, I ripped out the DVD. I may sue the director over losing those 15 minutes of my life.”
    Jim Winter


  • ZERO EFFECT | Buy this videoBuy this DVD Watch it now!
    (1998, Castle Rock)
    Written and directed by Jake Kasdan
    Producers: Janet Yang and Lisa Hensen
    Co-Producer: Naomi Despres
    Executive Producer: Jim Behnke
    Starring Bill Pullman as DARYL ZERO
    and Ben Stiller as Steve Arlo
    Also starring Ryan O’Neal, Kim Dickens, Angela Featherstone


  • ZERO EFFECT | Watch it now
    (2002, NBC)
    Written by Walon Green and Jake Kasdan
    Directed by Jake Kasdan
    Starring Alan Cummings as DARYL ZERO
    With David Julian Hirsh as Jeff Winslow
    Also starring Krista Allen, Andy Brewster, Laura Elizabeth Ford, Tom Gallop, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Patrick Wolff
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

Leave a Reply