My Boss’s Daughter

What “My Boss’s Daughter” fails to understand about comedy is that the audience cannot laugh when it is too busy being frustrated at how stupid the characters are. If a problem has an easy solution that is ignored in favor of wacky hijinks, we are not amused; we are irritated that the morons on the screen didn’t take the simple steps necessary to fix the problem.

Case in point: Early on, young publishing-firm researcher Tom Stansfield (Ashton Kutcher) is riding the subway when he sees the object of his affection. It is Lisa Taylor (Tara Reid), unobtainable because she is a) gorgeous and b) the daughter of Tom’s cruel boss, Jack (Terence Stamp). He finally gets up the nerve to go talk to her, and when he does, the abandoned briefcase he has recently found and is now carrying around as though it were his falls open to reveal a gay porn magazine.

Put yourself in his shoes. Being a creature capable of thought, you would say, “Oh my gosh, how embarrassing! This isn’t my briefcase. I just found it. Look, there must be some papers in here … ah, see, here’s the name of the guy whose briefcase it is. See? Not mine. I’m not gay.” Then you both share a hearty laugh about the situation and maybe make out.

But not Tom. No, Tom just sort of stammers and doesn’t know what to do, and therefore does nothing, leaving Lisa with the perfectly understandable impression that Tom is gay. (Actually, one could get that impression just from observing how much makeup Ashton Kutcher wears. Gay porn need not even enter the equation.)

There is much of that sort of “Three’s Company”-style faux-wackiness in “My Boss’s Daughter,” with uninvited houseguests tracking impossible amounts of mud into a pristine house, behaving more boorishly than is humanly possible, allowing pet owls to ingest cocaine and then escape — you know, the usual desperate levity you get from a new writer (David Dorfman) and a fast-fading director (David Zucker, a long way from “Airplane!”).

The plot involves Tom housesitting for Jack while he’s away, in an attempt to get closer to Lisa, who it turns out is going to be gone, too. Molly Shannon plays a newly fired secretary who shows up wanting justice, and Andy Richter — yes, heaven help us, Andy Richter — plays Lisa’s deadbeat brother. There’s a drug deal gone awry, too, of course; that’s what happens in houses that are supposed to be kept in mint condition while their owners are away.

I confess to laughing a few times, mostly at Molly Shannon’s odd, distracted way of delivering her lines. But I was annoyed more often than I was entertained. The humor is unfocused and scattershot, attempting pitch-black comedy about suicide one minute and vaudevillian comedy of errors the next. The film also contains a nude shot of Andy Richter’s rear end. Surely you do not need any more convincing than that to stay away.

D+ (1 hr., 26 min.; PG-13, some non-sexual nudity, a lot of mid-level profanity and one F-word, some drug humor.)