Director: Joshua Michael Stern
Studio: Endgame Entertainment / Five Star Feature Films
Stars: Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Ashton Kutcher is not the biggest problem with Jobs, a Matt Whiteley–scripted, Joshua Michael Stern–directed dramatization of a slice of the life of Apple computer cofounder, super entrepreneur and difficult human being, Steve Jobs.
Kutcher comes on all purse-lipped, wire-rimmed, eyebrow-scrunching, eyes darting, shuffling along like a hunch-shouldered puppet. By the looks and sounds of his version of Jobs, the shrewd Kutcher has certainly punched the time clock studying footage of the emotionally remote, quirky computer visionary. He gives it more than a shot and he’s often compelling and dead-on in tackling such a spiky, controversial public figure. But all his effort just doesn't electrify. Neither does the movie, which, in its most successful and entertaining section, gives us a barefoot, hygiene-challenged, socially conscious but directionless college dropout who hooks up with a computer geek and true brains of the outfit, Steve Wozniak (Broadway's Book of Norman star Josh Gad in an instantly likable performance in an undernourished role). Working out of his parents’ garage, Jobs supervises (and exploits) Wozniak and other tech-savvy young guns and, finally, they launch the early incarnation of the soon-to-be-world-changing Apple. The movie—and Kutcher along with it—doesn’t shy away from exposing Jobs’ shucking his idealism (or was that only a pose?) and becoming, as he ascends, godlike, from Silicon Valley, a thieving, opportunistic user, a betrayer of friends and lovers, a chronic screamer, a father who abandons his daughter, a man utterly deaf to fairness and decency.
By the time the movie shows us Jobs becoming known as an innovator and visionary, along with ruthless cutthroat capitalist, thanks to introducing the iPod and struggling to launch other Apple products, we get mired in a series of boardroom betrayals and manipulations. It would probably be too much to ask that Jobs might satirize, or at least allude to, the cultlike devotion Apple inspires in so many users, let alone the $500-a-share company’s reliance on cheap labor from a Beijing plant in which 16 workers have reportedly committed suicide in the past three years. It’s also probably too much to ask that the movie, although clearly lovingly made and well-intentioned, might come anywhere near the quality of The Social Network. We have the distinct feeling that the driven, relentlessly perfectionistic Jobs, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2011, might have screamed this one all the way back to the drawing board—soupy, “inspiring” music and all.