My Boss's Daughter (2002)

Cynthia Fuchs

Bring on the vile humor and mindless embarrassment.

My Boss's Daughter

Director: David Zucker
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Tara Reid, Terence Stamp, Molly Shannon, Michael Madsen, Andy Richter, Carmen Electra, Kenan Thompson
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Dimension Films
First date: 2002
US Release Date: 2003-08-22

Here's an idea, courtesy of Ben Affleck: high profile artists involved in waste-of-time movies should, on their releases, perform public acts of contrition. See how well it worked for Ben: even following the supposed strip club incident and the supposed wedding's supposed endangerment, he did the good-sport (and dedicated executive producer) thing, and went round to plug the new Project Greenlight film by making fun of Gigli and his recent overexposure. A clever gambit: even viewers who swore they couldn't take another half-second of Bennifer news found themselves hating him just a little less.

Call it inverse promotion. Rather than sending Ashton Kutcher round to the talk shows last week, before My Boss's Daughter hit theaters, send him out the week after it opens, so that he can admit to its terribleness, look cute and/or witty doing it, and salvage some of his dignity. (We'll stipulate that costar Tara Reid -- whose most recent projects were looking lost in Van Wilder and breaking poor Carson Daly's heart, at least according to his friends -- has none to salvage at this point.)

Kutcher might even manage this ploy. For one thing, he's quite boyishly charming and even articulate on the talk show couch, and seems able to talk around this movie as well as anyone who's had a lot more practice with such a maneuver. For another, he might not even remember My Boss's Daughter, which has been shelved for two years by someone looking out for him, whether intentionally or not (that he's listed as executive producer doesn't speak well of his choice in career-furthering projects). But now that Ashton's a hot ticket, what with the punk'ng and the Demi Dating, any impulse to look out for him is over. Bring on the vile humor and mindless embarrassment.

To say that this film, written by David Dorfman (also responsible for Anger Management), has a plot would overstate the case. It's more like a disjointed series of mishaps and gross-outs, Jackass piled on top of Down To Me. Kutcher plays Tom, repeatedly described as the "nicest guy in the world," also known as the fellow everyone walks all over. Tom works at a publishing house run by the deeply tanned Jack (Terence Stamp), and has a crush on the boss's deeply tanned daughter Lisa (Reid). Tom is pasty white, which means nothing except that he looks like he's from a planet different from that inhabited by the rich folks.

Still, Tom doesn't take much notice of the ostensible class distinction, mainly because he takes little notice of everything. He believes he can get a promotion to the creative department, and that he can win Lisa's heart, or whatever it is she has beating in her tanned chest, if only he can spend some quality time with her. He's so adorably clueless that when she asks him to housesit for her so she can go to a party with her beau Hans (Kenan Thompson), reportedly the type of fellow her dad prefers (business-minded, nerdy, and -- go figure -- black), Tom believes she's asking him for a date. "Oh thanks, I'll love you forever!" she squeals as he grins, thinking he's scored.

Hijinks begin in earnest once Jack leaves Tom in charge of his home and his owl (named O.J., not after the murderer, as Tom surmises, but the football player, as Jack insists). Tom proceeds to lose track of the bird, engage with assorted troublemakers, including Jack's estranged drug-dealing son Red (Andy Richter, wholly out of control in this universe) and his drug-dealing associate T.J. (Michael Madsen), Jack's just-fired secretary Audrey (Molly Shannon) and her beer-guzzling buddies, Speed (David Koechner), Darryl (Ron Selmour), and Tina (Carmen Electra, reprising her slo-mo wet t-shirt bit from Scary Movie).

Tom's encounters with each of these morons seem geared to make him more sympathetic -- by the time T.J. decides to dominate the room by literally peeing all over it, and Tom, the film's bad behavior quotient is pretty much filled. Still, there's more: a male neighbor (Joseph Patrick Cranshaw) offers to sell Tom a piece of a white human ear in a baggie, insisting that it's Evander Holyfield's, and only "changed color" since it's been detached (suffice it to say that the movie's race politics are exceedingly strange); and a girl neighbor (Ever Carradine), spends some genuinely unpleasant screen time detailing for Tom her melancholy since her "accident," all the while bouncing off walls and leaving globs of blood from her badly bandaged head wound on the furniture.

You can say this for Tom: he's dogged, in all senses. Even as he fumbles his way through these sundry encounters, he keeps his eyes on the seeming prize, a few moments with Lisa. Just how he has come to this evaluation is unclear, as she only seems selfish and whiny whenever she's on screen -- particularly strange is her decision to treat him to a striptease and lap dance because she believes him to be "gay." When he assures her that he's not, she's horrified and angry for about 18 seconds, then declares he's okay even if he is straight.

The case might be made that Kutcher is here perfecting his anti-leading man status, that affable stoner sort he plays in Dude, Where's My Car and That '70s Show. He actually appears sharp in interviews; during his good-sport late night tour to pitch My Boss's Daughter, he's said precious little about the film, focusing instead on how terrific it is to be him these days, that is, two years after he finished making it. Avoidance isn't a bad strategy, but it's not so striking as Ben's mea culpa approach.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.

8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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