When is it acceptable to lie? Why are people racist? Who kidnapped that little girl down the street? And by the way: Is this your dog?
These and other completely unrelated questions are raised in Matthew Leutwyler's "Answers to Nothing," in which nearly a dozen random themes and characters have been Scotch-taped together into a single mess. It's yet another unfortunate result of the Oscar that went to Paul Haggis' multinarrative drama "Crash," which gave many a stymied filmmaker the idea to shuffle all his half-finished screenplays and simply renumber the pages.
The protagonist here is Ryan (Dane Cook), a Los Angeles psychotherapist trying to impregnate his wife, Kate (Elizabeth Mitchell), while cheating with a trashy rock singer (Aja Volkman). Ryan's patient Allegra (Kali Hawk) is a self-loathing black woman; her white boyfriend (Zach Gilford) is the guy with the dog. Detective Frankie Graylin (Julie Benz) seems like a straggler from a whole different movie: She's grilling a suspected pedophile (Greg Germann), while a creepy schoolteacher, Mr. Carter (Mark Kelly), goes overlooked.
We haven't even touched on Drew (Miranda Bailey), a recovering alcoholic with a paralyzed brother (Vincent Ventresca), or Jerry (Erik Palladino), the lonely cop who attends strangers' funerals. Last and also least comes Ryan's mother (Barbara Hershey), still pining for her long-vanished husband.
The performances are passable, but Leutwyler (who directed, co-wrote and edited) mixes his scenes with astounding tone-deafness, veering from fertility-clinic comedy to bloody violence to youthful romance. Moreover, the dialogue is filled with bogus sermons on random topics like kindness, faith, justice -- anything you like, really. The best thing to be said for "Answers to Nothing" is that its title is utterly appropriate.
PLOT The crisscrossing lives of a cop, therapist, rock singer and several other Los Angelinos. RATING R (strong sexual content, nudity, violence and language)
BOTTOM LINE Another "Crash" wannabe that combines several barely related characters and ideas into one long, disjointed mess.