When it comes to technology, the late Steve Jobs was one of the most fascinating and influential figures of the past century. The same can’t be said for Jobs, a straightforward biopic that’s about as insightful as anything that can be researched on an iPad.
The film is a misfire despite the best efforts in the title role of Ashton Kutcher, who captures the mannerisms and physical tendencies of his subject, yet probes deeper than mere mimicry.
The bulk of the story chronicles the formative years of Apple Computer, the grassroots company Jobs started in 1971 with a few friends in his parents’ California garage. One of those collaborators is Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad), a technical wizard who shied from the spotlight and whose loyal relationship with Jobs forms one of the more intriguing angles of the film.
The film credits the determination of Jobs with the rise of the company, including the proliferation of the personal computer and the eventual launch of the iPod. Along the way, however, he manages to alienate many of his employees with his perfectionist demands, and even is forced out of the company via an internal power struggle in 1985, only to return a few years later.
Director Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote) captures the period with amusing detail, and the film’s timeline of tech developments from the last 40 years provide a nostalgic kick.
The screenplay by newcomer Matt Whiteley emphasizes eccentricities while hitting most of the highlights, although it falls short in terms of meaningful depth. Many of the creative details are embellished or reduced to montages in favor of a series of inspirational speeches.
Making matters worse, the film takes a crowd-pleasing hagiographic approach that tends to gloss over the negatives. About the worst that is revealed here about Jobs is that he was a bossy control freak, had bad hygiene, and was a deadbeat dad. The latter is only touched on only briefly.
There are some effective sequences that convey Jobs’ success as a hard-charging motivator, entrepreneur, engineer and visionary, although with an abrasive personality that made more enemies than friends.
Jobs is practically a superhero movie for tech geeks, although it falls short as an exploration of the relationship between creativity and commerce. But hey, at least its hero saves the day in the end.
Rated PG-13, 122 minutes.