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'Answers to Nothing': It's questionable

Dane Cook as Ryan and Elizabeth Mitchell as

Dane Cook as Ryan and Elizabeth Mitchell as Kate in "Answers to Nothing", directed by Matthew Leutwyler. In theaters on December 2, 2011. Photo Credit: David Jones/ Roadside Attractions/David Jones

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)

CAST Dane Cook, Barbara Hershey, Zach Gilford


PLAYING AT Malverne Cinema 4, Roslyn Cinemas

BOTTOM LINE Another "Crash" wannabe that combines several barely related characters and ideas into one long, disjointed mess.


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