By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com May 5, 2011 at 2:22AM
You probably didn't see "Zero Effect" when it was released way back in 1998. But you should have -- it's one of the most terminally underrated pictures of the last couple of decades, a fearsomely smart, funny, touching rejig of the Sherlock Holmes archetype, with a career best performance from Bill Pullman, and tremendous support from Ben Stiller, Kim Dickens and Ryan O'Neal. And writer-director Jake Kasdan made it when he was only 23.
Sure, nepotism might have played some part in getting Kasdan there -- his father is Lawrence Kasdan, writer of "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and director of the likes of "Body Heat" and "The Big Chill." But Kasdan Jr was clearly an enormous talent on his own, and he backed up the excellence of his first film by going on to be one of the major creative figures on "Freaks and Geeks," the now-classic TV show that, while it only lasted one season, proved to be a veritable breeding ground for comic talent, launching the careers of, among others, Judd Apatow, James Franco, Jason Segel, Samm Levine, Busy Phillips, Linda Cardellini, Seth Rogen, "Horrible Bosses" writer John Francis Daley and "Bridesmaids" director Paul Feig.
But Kasdan hasn't had as much success since in the film world. "Orange County" was an OK, but hugely slight, teen comedy, "The TV Set" was seen by even fewer people than "Zero Effect," and "Walk Hard" was an all around misfire. But things are looking up enormously for the helmer, who's still in his mid 30s -- he's directing one of the most buzzed about pilots of the season, the Zooey Deschanel-starring "Chicks and Dicks," and has a big summer comedy, the Cameron Diaz-starring "Bad Teacher," only a few weeks from release.
24 Frames reports that, with "Bad Teacher" picking up some strong buzz, Kasdan has used the heat to land another big gig -- Warner Bros' action-comedy "Family Getaway." The script, from writers Jeremiah Friedman and Nick Palmer, who landed the gig to write the remake of "The Bodyguard" off the back of this, has been getting buzz for some time, landing on last year's Black List, but Kasdan's attachment, if it's correct, is the first real movement on the project since Warners picked it up.
The plot involves an assassin who returns home to his parents for Thanksgiving, only for the whole family to have to flee when their home is attacked by vengeful assassins. The pitch is "The Bourne Identity" meets "Little Miss Sunshine," and that's exactly what the strong script delivers, a consistently funny road trip with enormous commercial appeal (although the script's firmly R-rated, and we wouldn't be surprised to see a rewrite move it into PG-13 territory). There's no word on when it might move forward, but Kasdan's slate is clear, other than a commitment to direct Tea Leoni and Hope Davis in an HBO pilot set in the world of New York fashion, "Spring/Fall," so this could start gearing up soon.