Love him or hate him, Steve Jobs was one of the most fascinating public figures of his time. But the new biographical film about the Apple co-founder hasn't been fascinating ... to most critics. And they're blaming Ashton Kutcher for bogging down the memory of the late tech icon.
Indeed, "Jobs," in which Kutcher plays the man who brought us the iPod, the iMac, and the Apple II, isn't shaping up to be a game changing hit like the products its title character brought us. "Kutcher is everything except interesting," contends the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips.
"Though Kutcher does throw himself into the role with all he's got, trying to capture Jobs' distinctive walk and mercurial temperament, his performance comes off as an assemblage of mannerisms with no deeper feeling or understanding," Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times writes.
Alonso Duralde of the Wrap agrees: "Kutcher, to his credit, doesn't downplay the jerk part, but he never has that moment where the performer disappears into the real-life character he's playing. The fact that his efforts to mimic Jobs' pronunciation pattern fluctuates from scene to scene underscores all the acting he's doing, which is a big distraction."
Nearly all the reviews touch on how "Jobs" balances the ambitious, visionary, and prickly sides of the man's personality, and Nathan Rabin in the Dissolve says that makes for a contradiction that hurts the movie. "[Steve] Jobs was a zealot for quality and beauty, and 'Jobs' faithfully perpetuates the cult of personality its subject cultivated around himself and his products—even as it depicts him as cold, callous, and so devoid of empathy that he sometimes borders on sociopathic, a man who habitually parked in handicapped spaces just because he could. Consequently, 'Jobs' is a hagiography of an a--hole."
Not that the movie is going over much better with folks who are unabashed Apple fans. "The movie is not nearly as bad as many connected with Apple (directly or through their devotion to its devices) may have feared," writes Charlie McCollum in the San Jose Mercury News. "But if a development team at Apple had cooked up this product, Jobs would have rejected it out of hand."
More than a few reviewers also note that the movie generates some unwanted laughs in early scenes where the young Jobs drops acid and stares into the middle distance as he dreams up his concepts. And director Joshua Michael Stern, whose best-known previous work was the Kevin Costner vehicle "Swing Vote," is getting his share of lumps. In an especially venomous writeup, R. Kurt Osenlund in Slate declares, "Steered by a lead actor and director, Joshua Michael Stern, who are both way out of their respective leagues, 'Jobs' is excruciating, failing to entertain and all but pissing on its subject's grave."
Given how Apple fans like to debate the importance of Jobs vs. co-founder Steve Wozniak in the company's history, it's worth noting that Josh Gad's performance as Woz is getting a big thumbs-up from most critics. "Amid the sizable supporting cast, the strongest impressions come courtesy of Gad as Woz, providing some gentle comic relief as well as a sensible counterbalance to his friend's suffer-no-fools impatience," writes Justin Chang in Variety. And the Wrap's Duralde says, "'Jobs' really belongs to Gad, whose Wozniak is the brainy, vulnerable and human heart of the film."
"Jobs" is just the first film on Steve Jobs to reach the big screen. There is at least one more in the works: "The West Wing" and "The Newsroom" creator Aaron Sorkin is writing a screenplay adapted from Walter Isaacson's best-selling Jobs biography. Sorkin also wrote the script for David Fincher's "The Social Network," the award-winning look into the life of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
"Throughout the picture, Jobs declares that his company innovates and drives the market," writes Perry Seibert of All Movie Guide. "They shouldn’t follow IBM; IBM is going to follow them. The problem with this movie is that ['Jobs' is] basically the IBM version of 'The Social Network' — a pale retread of something created by someone much closer to a genuine moment of inspiration."
"Jobs" opens in theaters on Friday.
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