Disappointing ‘Jobs’ barely scratches the surface

Steve Jobs was fascinating. Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher, isn’t.

Two stars

Jobs Ashton Kutcher, Josh Gad, Dermot Mulroney. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.

Nobody thought different during the making of Jobs, an aggressively run-of-the-mill biopic that finds Ashton Kutcher well out of his depth as Apple’s brilliant, prickly CEO, Steve Jobs. Skipping past Jobs’ childhood (and thereby avoiding the tricky subject of his adoption), the film kicks off with his short-lived stint at Reed College and subsequent founding of Apple with Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad), then simply follows the trajectory of his career, which conveniently conforms to basic screenwriting structure: early success (the release of the original Macintosh in 1984), second-act struggles (ousted from his own company, floundering with NeXT), then a climactic resurgence (with his return to Apple and the launch of various iGizmos). That Jobs died young, with Apple still at the height of its power, gives the film an ending that’s simultaneously tragic and inspiring.

To its credit, Jobs doesn’t shy away from its subject’s less endearing side, from his often contemptuous treatment of his employees to his initial refusal to acknowledge his own daughter. Unfortunately, that presents an acting challenge which Kutcher, despite what’s clearly a strenuous effort, just can’t meet. Buzzing with manic energy, he does some passable mimicry but conveys none of Jobs’ restless intellect, a quality that can’t really be faked. (Gad, on the other hand, has fun with his depressive take on Woz.) And to anyone who knows the basic facts of Jobs’ life—which would have to be most of the people who’d go see the movie—there’s nothing here that’ll surprise, delight or do much of anything but confirm. It’s the Windows XP of biopics.

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