As with "Marci X
," another of this week's new releases, "My Boss's Daughter" has been gathering dust on the shelves at Dimension Films for over a year. Now being released in the dog days of summer (aka "A Box-Office Dead Zone") with a new title ("The Guests" was its original moniker), little fanfare, and a flimsy marketing campaign, my only question after walking out of the film was, "What was the big deal?" Even in comparison to this week's other releases, I'd rather sit through "My Boss's Daughter" three times over than have to suffer through the horrors of "The Medallion
" again. Equal parts madcap comedy, slapstick, and love story, this 90-minute diversion won't be sweeping any award shows anytime soon, but it is utterly painless and actually quite sweet.
Tom Stansfield (Ashton Kutcher) is a young, enthusiastic publishing house employee with a crush on lovely co-worker Lisa Taylor (Tara Reid), who also happens to be his stern boss, Jack's (Terence Stamp)yep, you guessed itdaughter. When Lisa invites him to housesit for her father, he mistakenly believes it is a date-invite when in actuality she just wants a favor so she can attend a party. Once at his anal-retentive boss's spotless abode, Tom is bombarded with one unforeseen guest after the next, all of whom refuse to get out and are leaving a much bigger mess than he could ever possibly clean up. And when Lisa arrives home early, Tom must shield her from knowing about the other guests even as he finally gets the chance to get close to his dream girl.
Directed by "The Naked Gun" and "Airplane!" alum David Zucker, "My Boss's Daughter" is a conventionally zany screwball comedy with people running in and out of rooms and getting into sticky predicaments. There is another layer underneath, however, that is a great deal more out of the ordinary and bizarre, something no more in evidence than when a distraught girl with a badly bleeding head arrives, only to lean back in a chair and get cheese puffs stuck to the gruesome wound. Disgusting, yes, but no one could ever say they have seen that
before. Later, it is discovered that the off-the-wall owl boss Jack keeps as a pet is addicted to cocaine. Oh yeah, and the bird's name is O.J. "Named after the murderer?" Tom asks Jack. "No," he replies. "Named after the football player."
For perhaps the first time, Ashton Kutcher (2003's "Just Married
") bypasses his usual comically-charged part to play the straight guy who must react to all of the more over-the-top characters around him. The result is not fully successful, because Kutcher is not yet a strong enough performer to be captivating playing the normal guy. With so many more colorful roles around him, Kutcher bleeds into the background even though he is in every scene. He is likable, to be sure, but also terribly bland. After a decidedly weak turn in 2002's "National Lampoon's Van Wilder
," the usually bright Tara Reid recaptures her footing here with an easygoing performance that finds a nice balance between sexy and charming, with a little extra going on upstairs than originally meets the eye. There is a very nice scene midway through in which Kutcher and Reid find themselves spending time together in her upstairs bedroom, and the conversation they share about their hopes and dreams rings with resounding truth, just like two real people getting to know each other.
As for the rowdy houseguests, the one-of-a-kind Molly Shannon (2001's "Serendipity
") gets solid screen time as Audrey, the disgruntled assistant of Jack who has just been unfairly fired; Andy Richter (2000's "Dr. T and the Women
") plays Lisa's unlikely troubled brother, Red; Michael Madsen (2002's "Die Another Day
") is Red's shady drug boss; and Carmen Electra (2000's "Scary Movie
") is Audrey's buxom friend who, in one scene, asks Tom to inspect her breast for cancer.
"My Boss's Daughter" was written by David Dorfman (2003's "Anger Management
"), who delights in introducing all of these characters and then creating one unfortunate situation after the next for Tom to get out of. While the comedic material he has cooked up doesn't always work, and his and director David Zucker's payoff to some of the subplots are anticlimactic, the pacing is fast enough to smooth over its rough patches. "My Boss's Daughter" is a minor achievement, to be sure, but not for a lack of ambition and a good heart.