My Boss’s Daughter (2002)


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.