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By all accounts, the late Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs was a complicated man. Brash, brilliant, and intermittently difficult to work with, Jobs was a multi-faceted genius that revolutionized the personal computer industry and changed the way we look at technology. The first theatrical film to capitalize on Jobs' life story, Jobs, is disappointingly pedestrian and largely uninteresting. Ashton Kutcher certainly looks the part but fails to command the screen in this cable television grade biopic. Clocking in at two-plus hours, Jobs casts many lines without ever hooking its audience. I knew little more about Jobs and his life after watching the film than I had before, and large stretches of the film's midsection are tediously talky. There is a great story to be told here. Unfortunately, Joshua Michael Stern's (Swing Vote) film does not do its subject justice.
The whole production feels half hazard, from its generic ‘70s rock soundtrack to the middling performances and Matt Whiteley's surface-deep narrative. Kutcher was an interesting choice to play Jobs, and one might argue that his previous acting roles don't make a convincing case for giving him such a demanding part. I think Kutcher is a decent actor but he lacks the gravitas here to anchor the film. He is convincing when tooling around Los Altos, California, as a college-aged Jobs, whose pot-smoking friends are also brilliantly versed in electrical circuitry and coding. Kutcher is less convincing as the elder Jobs of iPod and MacBook launches that most people know. It's not that Kutcher is bad in the film, he just fails to make much of an impression. Kutcher goes through the motions when Jobs is initially fired from Apple, but his anger doesn't resonate. Jobs berates his colleagues and competitors and coldly abandons a girl he gets pregnant. The Steve Jobs of Jobs is more jerk than genius; something the filmmakers likely didn't intend.
I am all for a warts-and-all portrayal of Jobs' life, but the film is mostly concerned with hitting the basic highlights and never gets particularly invested in its subject. The supporting cast, including John Getz and Lesley Ann Warren as Jobs' adoptive parents and Josh Gad, Victor Rasuk, Nelson Franklin, Eddie Hassell and Ron Eldard as the Jobs faithful, is largely forgettable thanks to the ho-hum script. The rise and rebirth of Apple Computer is fascinating stuff. Perhaps a filmmaker like David Fincher would have been better suited to give the story some heft. Stern's direction is nothing special, and I can't say that a single scene in Jobs is particularly memorable. Interesting conflicts like Jobs' early ouster from Apple and the daughter that he refused to acknowledge for many years are presented at arm's length when they should have been used for dramatic effect.
I hate to totally trash the film; it certainly isn't completely awful. The filmmakers and cast obviously have a lot of respect for Jobs and seem to be trying their best to create a worthy biopic. Unfortunately, a couple of decent pieces fail to create a worthwhile whole. My biggest gripe with Jobs is that it foolishly oversimplifies both the man and the myth. Steve Jobs was a complicated man with many personality ticks. These are hardly explored. The man at the center of Jobs doesn't seem particularly brilliant, either, and the film suggest that Jobs' success has more to do with his team than his own talent. The final nail in this coffin is that Jobs commits the cardinal sin of filmmaking: it's boring. I can't recommend a movie that takes such an interesting subject and dilutes it down into a dull, paint-by-numbers biopic.
The 2.35:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image captures the golden hues of 1970s California. The image is nicely detailed and textured, with solid black levels and deep backgrounds. The picture is a touch soft at times due to the director's intended look, but I noticed no issues with banding or shimmering.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is mostly front-loaded for this dialogue-driven film but the period-appropriate songs unspool across the entire sound field. Dialogue is crisp and without distortion, and the chatter is balanced appropriately with effects and score. Some light ambience makes its way to the surrounds, and the subwoofer accompanies the tunes. English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This "combo pack" includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy of the film and both iTunes and UltraViolet digital copies. The discs are packed in a standard Blu-ray case, which is wrapped in a rather striking slipcover with a colorful, textured image of Kutcher as Jobs. The Commentary with Producer/Director Joshua Michael Stern reveals that the director had some decent ideas that never made it on screen. It also becomes clear that Stern may not be particularly fond of his own film. There are also three Deleted Scenes (3:31 total/HD) and three brief featurettes: Ashton Kutcher is Steve Jobs (2:28/HD); The Legacy of Steve Jobs (2:47/HD); and Jobs: Behind the Score (3:22/HD).
Viewers looking for an informative, entertaining biopic about the late Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs may want to wait a few years until a better film is released. Jobs, with Ashton Kutcher in the lead role, is a dull, generic exploration of a complicated life that fails to capitalize on its subject. Jobs spins its wheels for over two hours but never makes much of an impact. If the filmmakers were trying to make Jobs look like an annoying jerk then they were at least partially successful. Jobs had many flaws but deserves a more thorough portrait than this. Skip It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.