"Jobs": More Than Just "That '70s Start-Up"

This first of the year's two Steve Jobs biopics lacks the free pass of an Aaron Sorkin script, but sort of makes up for it by stunt-casting Ashton Kutcher in the title role. As enabled by director Joshua Michael Stern, Kutcher's earnest impersonation elevates the Apple origin story into ... well, something other than just That '70s Start-Up. Still, it is plodding, unsubtle stuff; the script, by first-timer Matt Whiteley, seems directly extracted from Apple marketing materials, if also frequently stymied by their old decree to "think different." Jobs's path from barefoot dropout to boardroom dandy took some strange turns, but the filmmakers make it look like too straight a line. We see his various, uh, interpersonal challenges — the freakout-brushoff of a pregnant girlfriend, the temperamental firings, that one vitriolic phone call to Bill Gates — for no apparent reason other than seeing them later vindicated by his visionary determination. Kutcher's fun to watch, though, and he has good if underwritten support from Josh Gad as Steve "Woz" Wozniak, this Jobs's roly-poly sidekick and comic relief. Other allies-cum-obstacles are played by Dermot Mulroney, Matthew Modine, and J.K. Simmons, all welcome at first but ultimately, perhaps fittingly, expendable. Also, the movie's production values seem more obligatory than inspired; its last word on Jobs' legacy might be that there's really no reason to see a film about him on a theater screen instead of an iPhone.

 
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