The effect in question is numbing. Daryl Zero (Bill Pullman) is a neurotic, reclusive weirdo, but he's also the heir to the mantle of Sherlock Holmes: He's the world's greatest detective, a master of the art of objective observation. Zero is hired by tycoon Gregory Stark (Ryan O'Neal), who's lost his safe deposit box key and is being blackmailed, though he won't say what it is the blackmailers know. So the world's greatest observer sets out to unravel this "mystery." First, the good news: Though Pullman's performance as Zero is sometimes annoyingly mannered, it's just as often quite engaging. Now the rest: The plot is obviously meant to be twisty and unpredictable, but it's actually slender and obvious. And for a film that prides itself on clever plotting, there's an awful lot of narrative flab. How exactly does something like this happen? Well, say you're 22-year-old Jake Kasdan -- son of famous director Lawrence -- and you write a script for a family friend who just happens to be famous actor Pullman. Major studios line up to make the film, hot writer-director Ben Stiller signs on for the role of Zero's adoring leg man, and underemployed actor O'Neal comes aboard up to play a creep. Add a couple of good-looking actresses and presto: You've made your debut film before other people even get out of college. Problem is, it's not very good, so now you've got egg on your face and daddy's influence can't make it go away. We should all have such problems. If troubled distributor Castle Rock has any hopes of riding this clunker to financial safe waters, they're as sunk as the Titanic.