My Boss's Daughter. Dimension Films presents a film directed by David Zucker. Written by David Dorfman. Running time: 85 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for sexual situations, brief nudity, vulgar humor). Starring Ashton Kutcher, Tara Reid, Andy Richter, Michael Madsen, Terence Stamp, Molly Shannon, Carmen Electra.

My Boss's Daughter

For a critic, August is one of the worst months of the year. This is the time when studios shovel out the movies they don't think will succeed, whether because of lack of interest or the fact that the movie sucks. My Boss's Daughter could conveivably succeed, I guess, but not with any good reason. It is completely harmless, that's true. But it's not funny in the least; and good jokes are, generally, pretty important for comedies.

My Boss's Daughter relies not on clever writing nor comic performances to get - well, try for, to be more accurate - its laughs. Instead, it uses ridiculous characters and bad sitcom style situations. To get an idea, consider the worst televsion comedy you've ever seen. Make it a little worse - that's My Boss's Daughter. Now, to be fair, it's not really painful to sit through like Freddy Got Fingered - it's not unwatchable - but if you laugh once you'll be having a better time than I did.

At the center of the story is Tom Stansfield (Ashton Kutcher), a nice guy who never gets a break. He is secretly in love with Lisa (Tara Reid), his boss's daughter. When she asks Tom to house-sit so she can go to a party, he quickly agrees. Unfortunately, Tom's boss (Terence Stamp) is an anal-retentive, angry man who demands cleanliness from his guests. As soon as Dad leaves the house, things start going terribly wrong. A coworker, Audrey (Molly Shannon), shows up, and soon the house is full of dirty, rambunctious drunks. Everything that could go wrong does.

One would think that, with such a simple concept, My Boss's Daughter would at least be able to garner some laughs. Not so. Instead of even relatively clever gross-out humor, we get a series of slap-stick jokes that don't work. The best line in the movie (and don't for one minute think "best" means "funny" - I just grimaced the least here) is one character's theory on who killed JFK - Desi Arnez. That's as good as it gets, folks.

Ashton Kutcher tries his best to play the likeable lead guy, but he can't quite pull it off yet. Terence Stamp starts off relatively strong as the sadistic boss, but as the movie progresses he gets worse and worse, almost as if he realizes that no one is laughing. Tara Reid is just as likeable as always, and her performance is actually kind of charming. Andy Richter is pleasant to watch as the family's estranged son; you get the feeling that he could have been really funny if not for the material. Molly Shannon is unbelievably irritating, and Michael Madsen is pretty good.

But as I said earlier, it's possible to sit through My Boss's Daughter without feeling any serious discomfort - it's just so damn earnest that it never feels like a really bad movie. It wants to be liked - if it was funny, maybe it could be - and for that, I give it credit - one star's worth, to be exact. The other half comes from five minutes of Carmen Electra in a wet tee-shirt; I mean, that has to be worth something, right?

© 2003 Matt Noller