Terry Gilliam creates instantly recognizable worlds by stitching together bits from the past and the future. In The Zero Theorem, that means rotary-dial phones and talking billboards. Two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz plays Qohen, an anemic gnome who spends his days crunching data. As with Jonathan Pryce in Gilliam's superior 1985 Brazil, he doesn't play well with others, so he speaks to Management (Matt Damon, half of Gilliam's 2005 The Brothers Grimm) about working from the abandoned church he calls home. To his surprise, he gets his wish. As his gregarious supervisor (David Thewlis) tells him, he just needs to figure out the "Zed T." From that moment on, the weirdness accumulates as he receives visits from a boy genius (Lucas Hedges) and a webcam cutie (Mélanie Thierry), whose attempts to help him concentrate prove more distracting than not. For guidance, he consults a virtual shrink (Tilda Swinton with Snowpiercer dentures). Since this is a Gilliam joint, Qohen isn't likely to find a solution, but unlike Robin Williams in Gilliam's 1991 The Fisher King, he's too introverted to break your heart. When The Zero Theorem wants to have fun, it succeeds, but when it tries to drop knowledge, it fails. recommended