Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs in the biopic 'Jobs.'
(Photo: Glen Wilson, Sundance Institute, via AP)
(USA TODAY) -- A famous ad for Apple Inc. salutes the misfits, rebels and troublemakers, those who resist rules and have no respect for the status quo. They can be glorified or vilified, the ad continues, but never ignored. The reason? "Because they change things."
Steve Jobs fit squarely into that turf.
But Jobs (* * out of four; rated PG-13; opens Friday nationwide), the biopic starring Ashton Kutcher as the late co-founder of Apple, can't seem to decide whether to glorify the man for his achievements or vilify him for his megalomania. One thing it doesn't do is offer a revealing look at the mercurial entrepreneur. The movie that bears his name settles on a blandly superficial treatment of a deeply complex man.
And, for that, it's easy to ignore.
It's a challenge to convey just what makes a cultural icon. But pumped-up orchestral strains and repeated scenes of standing ovations and thunderous applause don't shed any light on Jobs' psyche. Those scenes feel like filler, anxious proof that their subject is worthy of his own movie. Of course he is - his innovative products have had an immeasurable impact. But a film about such a game-changing figure needs to be more incisive.
Kutcher nails Jobs' hunched, lurching gait, his distinctive speech patterns and his steely gaze (featured in far too many long close-ups). And the actor pulls off a fair approximation of some of the man's personal charm, wily determination and explosive temper. But Jobs sought to change the world. What propelled him? Walter Isaacson's exhaustive 2011 biography, published shortly after Jobs died at 56, explored his psychology in detail, but this movie, with an unrelated script by Matt Whiteley, falls short. (Aaron Sorkin is adapting another Jobs movie partly based on Isaacson's biography.)
Montages of Jobs and his inner circle hard at work on the earliest incarnations of home computers don't offer a window into the man. Nor does the sight of him zooming off in expensive cars, often after he has done something selfish. It's the cinematic equivalent of presenting the symptoms but not probing the cause.
A prologue shows Jobs introducing the iPod in 2001 to great fanfare, then flashes back to him as a child. It seeks to establish his early artistic inclinations by exploring his youthful fascination with calligraphy. But this feels like insignificant, contrived shorthand.
Jobs' disregard for the women in his life - and years-long repudiation of oldest daughter Lisa - are presented but essentially glossed-over. Other noteworthy aspects of his life, such as his involvement in Pixar, are omitted.
Supporting characters are not fleshed out. As Apple co-founder and tech whiz Steve Wozniak, Josh Gad brings gentle humor and sincerity to a role that could have used more development. Other key players are on hand to suffer mostly in silence through Jobs' tirades.
Overall, Jobs the movie is a lazy effort that the real-life Jobs, with his laser-focused drive for excellence and uncompromising nature, would no doubt have sent back for reworking.