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'Jobs' review: Ashton Kutcher shines in predictable Steve Jobs biopic

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Released on Thursday, Aug 15 2013

Director: Joshua Michael Stern; Screenwriter: Matt Whitely; Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas; Running time: 122 mins; Certificate: PG-13


Steve Jobs has become something of a mythic hero in the eyes of a generation essentially raised on computers, laptops, smart phones and tablets. He's been described as the Edison of our time, a genius who changed the way we interact with the world and with each other. Such a legacy seems tailor-made for the Hollywood treatment, the main appeal perhaps being a chance to go beyond the Jobs narrative we've all come to know and learn something new, something different, about such an iconic figure.

In Jobs, writer Matt Whitely and director Joshua Michael Stern make the attempt of presenting a more complex, holistic portrait of the late Apple CEO, but don't quite stick the landing. The two-hour movie is a highlight reel of all of Jobs's greatest achievements, starting from the early days of Apple when it was just a struggling start-up ran out of a garage. Ashton Kutcher stars in the titular role, with Josh Gad as partner Steve Wozniak. For any Apple fanatic or Jobs fan all the important moments are covered, including the assembly of the first Lisa and Macintosh computers, as well Jobs's falling out with Apple and his eventual comeback at the company in 1997.

Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs
Seeing these seminal moments recreated onscreen is certainly entertaining, but the filmmakers at times rely a little to heavily on an all too reverent approach to Jobs the man. While the movie exploits every chance it can get to applaud his genius, it often misses out on opportunities to explore the less pleasant sides of his character, resulting in what feels like a watered-down version of what could have been a much more interesting portrait.

This isn't to say an effort isn't made. At various points we get glimpses of Jobs's infamous temper, his tendency to be a bit of a jerk to colleagues (scenes of his sometimes shady treatment of partner Steve Wozniak are especially illuminating), but these moments usually end with the overall sentiment that the jerkiness is a necessary, even charming symptom of being the most brilliant man in the room. It's a trope that's often used to explain genius, and here it feels a little stale.

There isn't much to say about Jobs other than this: it's a decently made, if relatively predictable take on an unpredictable life. With several other Jobs biopics coming down the pipeline, one can only hope that something less superficial will come along. Still, there is one surprising reason to see Jobs despite its problems, and that reason is Ashton Kutcher.

He was met with extreme scepticism last year when he was announced to star in the film, the first Jobs biopic to be released since the innovator's death in 2011. The scepticism wasn't totally unfounded as Kutcher, currently the star of Two and a Half Men, hasn't had the greatest track record on the big screen. But miraculously, the 35-year-old actor more than pulls off the role, almost perfectly channelling Jobs's speech patterns, his gestures, his gait. Despite the movie's failings, he manages to convey a sense of excitement and possibility that saves what might have been a wholly mediocre endeavour. But while it's an impressive performance by Kutcher, probably his best to date, he's ultimately let down by a script that's inspiring, yes, but really not all that interesting.

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