This much has to be said about "Answers to Nothing": The title couldn't be better. It's a museum specimen of truth in packaging. The film, indeed, has no answer for anything.
And even if you take the title another way entirely -- as a reply to the less-than-trenchant question "whom does this film answer to?" -- that fits, too.
The movie was obviously intended to be a kind of "Son of 'Crash' " about an intertwined group of Angelenos and their doings during the dramatic period when a little girl has gone missing.
Unfortunately, almost everything in the movie can be seen with more snap, crackle and pop on almost any evening of prime-time network TV in America.
So what we follow is the drop-dead gorgeous blond police investigator on the case (Julie Benz, formerly of "Dexter") and her suspicions about one of the little girl's neighbors who was known to have had her in his truck while he was eating lunch (Greg Germann, formerly of "Ally McBeal").
Around the periphery of that is a psychiatrist (Dane Cook) married to a drop-dead gorgeous blond lawyer (Elizabeth Mitchell) who is trying to have a baby with her at the same time that he's carrying on an affair with a folk-rock singer. His attorney wife, on the other hand, is representing a woman trying to get permanent custody of a brother who has been pronounced brain dead.
There is, then, a ton of plot being batted forth as each individual plot thread leads to the next as the movie goes on. And none of it really rises to any level worth paying much attention to despite the quality of the actors involved, which is high indeed.
The only continuing character in the film, frankly, that I found involving at all was the one played by emerging young actress Kali Hawk who plays an African-American comedy writer who has, in modern lingo, "issues" with her identity. She's having a devil of time working through them smoothly enough to have a decent relationship with a potential beau (to use a nicely old-fashioned word) she just met.
I found her absolutely fascinating -- complex, witty, articulate and conflicted in altogether surprising ways that you won't find in characters on prime-time television. And actress Hawk, in playing her, is the best thing in the movie. I'd have been delighted to see a whole movie about her.
Alas, no such luck.
The plots resolve in a satisfying way which makes the lack of satisfaction provided by the rest of the movie that much more pronounced.
The movie is directed by Matthew Leutwyler and was co-written by Leutwyler and sitcom actress Gillian Vigman, a veteran of "Funny or Die." I'd be willing to bet that the whole sitcom writer subplot is very much Vigman's invention.
If so, I hope she writes a movie all by herself soon.
It didn't work out so well.
ANSWERS TO NOTHING
1 1/2 stars (out of 4)
STARRING: Dane Cook, Elizabeth Mitchell, Julie Benz, Kali Hawk, Barbara Hershey, Greg Germann, Zach Gilford
DIRECTOR: Matthew Leutwyler
RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes
RATING: R for language, sex and violence
THE LOWDOWN: "Crash"-like tale of intertwined and troubled L.A. lives centered around the disappearance of a little girl.