It’s a big hurdle to get over: Ashton Kutcher is playing Steve Jobs. This is not a typo. The dude from Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000) is portraying the tech wizard who transformed personal computers and thus, our modern world. Sure, Kutcher is the king of Twitter and it’s no more ridiculous than, say, casting Mickey Rooney as young Thomas Edison—but really?!?
Wisely, director Joshua Michael Stern kicks off this look at the man’s life at the 2001 Apple Town Hall Meeting in which Jobs introduced the iPod. Our first glimpse of Kutcher as the older, more seasoned, gray-bearded icon doesn’t just confirm that he can ape the appearance and the loping gait of Jobs 2.0; the actor nails the look in the man’s eyes, a penetrating glance that suggests he’s simultaneously chasing rainbows and sizing up weaknesses. It’s an inspired move. You instantly believe this guy could be a cosmically sloppy hippie dreamer and put the Mac in Machiavellian. You’re ready to follow the star anywhere he takes this chairman of the motherboards.
Unfortunately, Kutcher is taking him through the hoops of a rote here-goeth-the-great-man tale, albeit one that makes a point of showing us that Jobs was both genius and jerk-off. All the marks are hit: The early garage days with Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad), here treated as a chubby, wisecracking Costello to Jobs’s Abbott; the eureka moment of coming up with the name Apple; the risks, the successes, the failures, the hubris (“He’s great…but he’s a time bomb!”), Jobs’s ouster and reinstatement as CEO. But while we’re reminded of what Jobs did, there’s little insight into why he did it. The film thankfully doesn’t offer some pop-psychology Rosebud to explain Jobs’s drive or near-sociopathic perfectionism, yet we walk away knowing nothing about what made this revolutionary tick. He deserves a 360-degree portrait. What you get is a mini recap of a pioneer’s life—a biOpic shuffle.