Directed by: Joshua Michael Stern
Released on: August 16, 2013
Grade: 3.5 out 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker
When I first received word a while back that Ashton Kutcher would play the late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs on the big screen, I couldn’t help but think that the filmmakers had made a rather irregular casting choice. The former Mr. Demi Moore couldn’t be taken seriously as a dramatic actor let alone be taken seriously, period. After all, this guy is Charlie Sheen’s replacement on the dreadful Two and a Half Men, and early reports from Sundance, where Jobs premiered, were dismal.
Now that I’ve seen the film, I must report to you that Kutcher actually does a half-way decent job as the asshole genius innovator that helped shaped the 21st century. He’s not the next Jack Nicholson or anything, but I must say I was surprised that Kutcher didn’t completely suck. His stint on That ‘70s Show probably helped him out here, as Jobs was an acid-dropping, long-haired hippie in his youth. Kutcher successfully emulates Jobs’ mannerisms and style, never overdoing it or appearing as parody. In fact, the entire film itself is much better than would be expected, considering Jobs is a crash course in filmmaking for first-time producer Mark Hulme, who daylights as a publishing mogul in Texas.
The film covers Jobs’ life from his days at Reed College, where he dropped out, to the introduction of the iPod, the device that killed the record industry, in 2001. In the course of those thirty years he worked for Atari, founded Apple Computer with his technowizard friend Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad), and was ousted from his own company only to triumphantly return and make it more successful than ever.
Though Kutcher is decent in his role, he wouldn’t have been able carry the whole movie himself. Thankfully for him, he’s got a talented supporting cast to help tell the story. Gad, fresh off his Broadway run in The Book of Mormon, is delightful as Wozniak. A nerd among nerds, his presence in the film has the most warmth. Nelson Franklin (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) stands out as Bill Atkinson, another genius at Apple who helped develop the Macintosh. His more relaxed demeanor is a foil to Jobs’ intensity.
The script by newcomer Matt Whiteley, though not perfect, is a valiant first effort. It mostly retreads some of the same territory as Pirates of Silicon Valley but reinterprets the history of Apple from a different angle. It lightly touches on Jobs’ feud with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and instead focuses on the conflict between the maniacal Jobs and his brilliant team of computer wizards. The film also delves into some of the less flattering aspects of Jobs’ life such as denying the paternity of his daughter, stiffing his original Apple team out of their much deserved stock, and his all-around dickhead nature — events that aren’t satisfactorily resolved in the movie. Jobs could have benefited from elaborating on these and other events, such as the reconciling with his daughter and the rise of Pixar.
Regardless, Jobs works because it’s a highly entertaining drama about things that matter. Films like these are rare this day and age, and when they do hit cinemas, they are sandwiched between the latest comic book adaptation or the latest unnecessary sequel or both. Because Hollywood has released a smorgasbord of dreck this year, Jobs stands out as a decent alternative.