Comedy's cardinal rule is never make it look hard, but that wisdom is ignored in "My Boss's Daughter." Story of a misunderstood young man getting in a mess when he housesits for his boss is as old as Harold Lloyd's two-reelers, but director David Zucker, a master of whacked-out visual comedy during his "Airplane!" era, drops the ball here.

Comedy’s cardinal rule is never make it look hard, but that wisdom is ignored in “My Boss’s Daughter.” Story of a misunderstood young man getting in a mess when he housesits for his boss is as old as Harold Lloyd’s two-reelers, but director David Zucker, a master of whacked-out visual comedy during his “Airplane!” era, drops the ball here. The long delay from lensing to release (sans advanced screenings for critics) provides a bit of good timing given star Ashton Kutcher’s recent media-driven fame, but B.O. boost will be limited to opening weekend, with a fair stay in vid houses following.

In voiceover young Tom Stansfield (Kutcher) explains that he works as a researcher at a big Chicago publishing house but really wants to be in the creative department. Egged on by pal Paul (Jon Abrahams) to say something to Lisa (Tara Reid), daughter of the company boss, Tom manages to give her the incorrect hint that he’s gay.

Meanwhile, Lisa’s father Jack Taylor (Terence Stamp), the firm’s intimidating topper, fires his secretary Audrey (Molly Shannon) for making undrinkable coffee.

Key misunderstanding happens when Lisa asks Tom to come to her house that night — which he reads as a date, and which she means as a favor to housesit while she’s at a party and dad is away on business.

When Tom arrives at the house, Stamp turns Jack’s grand tour of his immaculate mansion into an aria of command and control, but even half-awake viewers will note the mines being laid for the innocent Tom — from Jack’s prized owl O.J. who must be fed two pills (one in the mouth, one in the rectum) to the exquisite furnishings that mustn’t be touched and the anal house rule that all visitors must replace their shoes for disposable surgery room booties.

Yet, even though David Dorfman’s script establishes the conditions for farce with the entry of a series of unexpected visitors to the estate — starting with Jack’s disowned, criminal son Red (Andy Richter) and Audrey, coming to plead for her job back — things quickly spin so far out of control that an entire peace-keeping force couldn’t possibly restore order. Soon after Red comes T.J. (Michael Madsen), who then becomes a one-man wrecking (and peeing) crew. With Audrey comes her gaggle of friends, who further trash the place in their witless attempts to capture O.J., who has flown away.

One sure sign of a movie without a compass is how fine comic talents like Jeffrey Tambor (given curiously high billing) are wasted in throwaway roles, while thesps of extremely limited comic range like Shannon have generous chunks of time. The low point for the cast seems to come when Madsen is reduced to urinating over the furniture, but it’s actually later, when Stamp is literally deluged in liquefied garbage and stuffed with a rat.

Nonetheless, the movie looks and sounds reasonably good, particularly with Andrew Laws’ crucial and shiny production design.

My Boss's Daughter

Production

A Dimension Films release of a Dimension Films presentation of a Gil Netter and a John Jacobs production. Produced by Netter, Jacobs. Executive producers, Paddy Cullen, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Andrew Rona, Brad Weston. Co-producer, Ashton Kutcher. Directed by David Zucker. Screenplay, David Dorfman.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color and prints), Martin McGrath; editors, Patrick Lussier, Sam Craven; music, Teddy Castellucci; music supervisors, Madonna Wade-Reed, Jennifer Pyken; production designer, Andrew Laws; art director, Kevin Humenny; set designers, Milena Zdravkovic, Sheila K. Millar; set decorator, Johanne Hubert; costume designer, Daniel Orlandi; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Eric J. Batut; supervising sound editor, Robert Shoup; visual effects head of production , John Follmer; special effects coordinator, Gary Paller; visual effects, MetroLight Studios Inc. ; stunt coordinator, J.J. Makaro; associate producer, Phil Dornfeld; assistant director, Doug Metzger; second unit director, J.J. Makaro; second unit camera, Brian Pearson; casting, John Papsidera. Reviewed at Miramax screening room, L.A., Aug. 22, 2003. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Tom Stansfield - Ashton Kutcher Lisa Taylor - Tara Reid Ken - Jeffrey Tambor Red Taylor - Andy Richter T.J. - Michael Madsen Paul - Jon Abrahams Speed - David Koechner Tina - Carmen Electra Jack Taylor - Terence Stamp Audrey Bennett - Molly Shannon Hans - Kenan Thompson

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