A serious argument could be made for the thesis that Ashton Kutcher is the new century’s answer to Marilyn Monroe. As befits the age when feminism has taken root, instead of a ditzy but delightful blonde bombshell we get a dim but likable brunet hunk. There are differences, though. Some of Monroe’s vehicles were really quite good, something that–thus far, at least–will never be said of Kutcher’s. And with luck, Ashton will never get a chance to sing “Happy Birthday” to the president. (Maybe he could just punk Dubya instead.)
But though “My Boss’s Daughter” (like Kutcher’s last entry, “Just Married”) bears a title that tells you everything there is to know about the movie’s ultra-thin plot, it also generates some laughs. Goofy but shy, lovable lug Tom Stansfield (Kutcher) is roped into house-sitting for his absurdly stern boss Jack Taylor (Terence Stamp) under the misapprehension that he’s going there for a date with Taylor’s daughter Lisa (Tara Reid), over whom he’s long swooned from afar. Inevitably, a succession of slapstick catastrophes follow, involving Taylor’s untrustworthy son Red (Andy Richter), a mob hit-man called T.J. (Michael Madsen), a recently-fired secretary (Molly Shannon) and her bevy of low-life pals, an irate neighbor (Jeffrey Tambor), and a drugged pet owl and some white mice intended for its dinner–just to name a few of the supporting cast. Predictably, romance also blossoms between Tom and Lisa.
Like Kutcher’s previous pictures–“Dude, Where’s My Car?” as well as “Married”–this one isn’t so much a plot as a series of slapstick sketches tied together by the thinnest of premises, and it has a random, haphazard construction, despite the fact that it’s intended to be intricately assembled so that each episode links with the others. (David Dorfman, who also wrote “Anger Management,” is hardly an elegant craftsman.) That would normally be a serious drawback, but in this case the rickety structure actually complements the star’s loose, manic style, and overall the picture does build to a raucous finale. It is a pity that Dorfman felt it necessary to base so much of the humor, especially in the later stages of the picture, on bodily functions, and one sequence focusing on a young woman’s bleeding wound is more unpleasant than amusing; but at least the movie is far less sniggering than one might have feared–and this is the twenty-first century, after all. And throughout Kutcher proves an ingratiating presence, far less irritating than he’s sometimes been. He does strip down to his civvies again–that’s apparently the new decade’s equivalent of Mel Gibson’s erstwhile nekkid buttocks scenes–but his giddily klutzy shtick will surely satisfy his fans, and he exudes a sweetness that’s really quite attractive. (Actually, there are a couple of derriere shots in the movie, but the cheeks belong to others.) Reid is a bit stiff as his romantic interest, and there’s never any great chemistry between them, but Richter is amusing as her brother, and Shannon, Madsen, Tambor and Dave Foley (who’s really putting on the weight), while hardly provided with the strongest material, make fairly good impressions. Best of all is Stamp, who offers a portrait of quietly menacing authority that’s quite funny in its way; his soft line readings and mannered movements play nicely against the star’s frenzy.
“My Boss’s Daughter” is hardly a good movie–it’s a sloppy, shambling farce which will probably have more of a future in home viewing than on the big screen. But Kutcher’s amiability, Stamp’s skill and the sporadically inventive slapstick make it more tolerable than you might expect.