Here’s what we know from Jobs, the first and, with luck, the lamer of the two biopics (Aaron Sorkin is working on his own screenplay) about the late Apple computer guru Steve Jobs, played here by Ashton Kutcher. Genius, according to Kutcher’s bland performance, is a matter of pursing your lips, pausing, speaking deliberately and arrogantly and reading every line as if you already know the retort, because you are Steve Jobs and therefore an omniscient god. Kutcher has the circular eyewear and the dreamy gait down pat. Each time he serves up a conspicuous, dismissive hand gesture, you think: Yes, I seem to remember seeing the real Jobs doing something like that on camera.
But Kutcher is everything except interesting. And the script by Matt Whiteley, done no favors by Joshua Michael Stern’s plodding direction, offers sketchy insight into the man whose accomplishments are treated by “Jobs” as somewhere north of the invention of the wheel and somewhere south, barely, of the birth of human consciousness. (Composer John Debney accompanies every new business development with the mushy strings associated with a mid-’60s Bible epic.)
On the other hand, the Jobs we meet here was a greedy, conniving man of capitalism, throwing his early colleagues under the bus without any stock options. He took a few too many years to even acknowledge the existence of his daughter. He lived for work, and not for life, or other people. He was, in other words, like the Frank Loesser lyric from “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” the one about resigning others to “bask in the glow of his perfectly understandable neglect.”
That’s about 10 minutes’ worth out of the 127 in Jobs, most of which is honorific pap prone to cliche. We’re shown the origin story, the start in the Jobs family garage (John Getz and Lesley Ann Warren play mom and dad; Josh Gad, very good, is the key early collaborator Steve Wozniak), the early, clunky Apple computers in the ’70s, paving the way for sleek multizillion-dollar design perfection courtesy of the Macs, the iPads, the iPhones, the iThis and the iThat.
The dialogue comes straight out of “The Benny Goodman Story.” That look, someone says to a staring, pausing Kutcher, “tells me you’re on to something big.” Nobody talks in this movie; everyone speechifies or takes turns sloganing one another to death. “We gotta risk everything!” “We gotta make Apple cool again!” We know Jobs said a lot of these things. But what would he have made of this cautious movie? He probably would’ve liked looking like the smartest, most driven, most divinely inspired visionary on the planet. But he probably would’ve preferred being vital–a techno-maniacal personality imagined with a dash of skepticism, a la The Social Network.
Jobs (PG-13) ★★☆☆☆