While watching Jobs one cannot help but think back on the 1999 TNT made-for-TV movie “Pirates of Silicon Valley,” starring Noah Wyle as Steve Jobs and Anthony Michael Hall as Bill Gates. Well, at least I could not help thinking about that film. It certainly told a much crisper, tighter story of the beginning of Apple Computers — an event which changed the technological world and shook it to its very foundations — and the calculating mind of its most outspoken founder. In this latest version, as directed by Joshua Michael Stern (“Swing Vote“), the man is given just enough biopic treatment to make him slightly interesting, but oftentimes he’s just bland.
Yes, as played by Ashton Kutcher (the guy who lost an argument with an orange in “Bobby“), the man who helped revolutionize personal computing is hardly charismatic. We do get to see Steve Jobs get high and try to inspire his employees and harbor a morbid fear of and hatred for International Business Machines (IBM), but it’s nothing we haven’t seen or heard hundreds of times before.
We also get a glimpse of just what a jerk Steve Jobs was and what a volatile personality he had. This, of course, is nothing new either, considering most inventive people have this feature, from Ben Franklin to Thomas Edison to Henry Ford to Picasso. What is interesting though is that after early successes, the tension he created pushing the envelope led the Apple board to oust the man from the company he helped create.
Kutcher, who’s made his bread and butter on the small screen in “That ’70s Show,” and now “Two and a Half Men“), no doubt gives the best performance of his career, although that’s not much of a compliment considering his body of work. I was hopeful at first — when he comes out to introduce the iPod he impressively captures Steve Jobs’ walk and mannerisms, however, after that his characterization is a relatively thin, paint-by-the-numbers effort.
The real revelation here is Josh Gad (“Love and Other Drugs“), whose performance as friend and creative force behind Apple, Steve Wozniak, carries the picture. Kutcher and Gad have good chemistry and the best scenes in Jobs are when these two are on screen together. Dermot Mulroney (“Big Miracle“), as an early investor Mike Markkula, also acquits himself well.
It’s too bad the overall experience of Jobs is one that is too long and choppy, and one that ultimately reveals too little about one of the more interesting men of our times.