You've got to hand it to Ashton Kutcher. He's doing a fine job of using his star power to drown out early, tepid critical response to his latest film about the late founder of Apple.
First, in an apparent attempt to get wider audiences buzzing, the first "jOBS" clip debuted on Entertainment Tonight (and notably not on a film-geek or pop culture outlet such as Entertainment Weekly, Slashfilm or even our own Yahoo! Movies). The clip got out just ahead of the film's premiere at Sundance last week. But once it was screened, early reception was lukewarm, leaving some critics blaming Kutcher's portrayal of the late Steve Jobs and many others faulting the film-making itself. "Despite the superficial physical resemblance between actor and subject, enhanced by thick glasses, longish hair and an impressive attempt at vocal mimickry on Kutcher's part, the illusion never fully seizes hold," wrote Variety's Justin Chang, who summed up his criticism with, "['jOBS'] more or less embodies the sort of bland, go-with-the-flow creative thinking Jobs himself would have scorned."
Second, the story about how Kutcher's adoption of Jobs' fruitarian diet landed the 34-year-old actor in the hospital offered another distraction to general moviegoers from, say, the Daily Telegraph's comment that "The poverty of [Kutcher's] skills as a serious actor is on full display."
And now, Kutcher's latest savvy attempt to get audiences pumped about a biopic that one critic likened to a television movie is a split-screen photo that seamlessly matches half of his face with half of the face of the late Steve Jobs. Kutcher posted the photo on Twitter in tandem with the premiere of the film and thanked Sundance for supporting it. Now, a few days later, it's making the rounds online.
The photo melds Kutcher in full makeup as a late-era Jobs with a pic of the actual, famed Apple entrepreneur in one of his most iconic poses.
The photo of Jobs is from the cover of Walter Isaacson's biography which was written with the blessing -- and unprecedented cooperation -- from the late tech visionary before he died in 2011. It is an Albert Watson portrait that was taken for Fortune in 2006 and is said to be Jobs' favorite portrait shot of himself of all time. Isaacson and Jobs -- in true Jobs fashion -- endured a painstaking, lengthy back-and-forth over what photo would make the cover. Finally, Jobs chose the seemingly obvious -- his favorite photo.
From the glasses to the hairline to the facial expression, Kutcher nails the look. Sure, his makeup, and likely a little Photoshop, helped with the effect, but it's an undeniably uncanny match up -- one that has the Twitterverse buzzing and Mashable has called "spookily accurate." And here we were wary at first of Kutcher's physical likeness.
Well played, Ashton.
"jOBS" opens in theaters April 19.
Watch 'jOBS' Clip - Garage Conversation:
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