"Think differently" is a slogan dear to Apple and a sentiment repeatedly expressed in "Jobs," a film about the company's iconic founder Steve Jobs. Unfortunately, the biopic unfolds rather conventionally, offering little new insight or understanding of Jobs or his legacy, which in the year and a half since his death has already been closely examined.
It lacks the energy of "The Social Network" about that other titan of tech. Nor does it expose the inner workings of Jobs's mind. Rather it relies on the well-documented details of Jobs's personality – his ambition, his stubbornness, his attention to detail – to offer a straight-forward and somewhat dull recounting of Jobs's early career and success.
"Jobs" begins with Steve (Ashton Kutcher) as a restless college dropout who drops acid and crashes calligraphy classes. It zips along, with ample orchestral scoring, as Jobs teams up with pal Steve "Woz" Wozniak (Josh Gad) to build computers in his garage. Steve catches the eye – and funding – of a venture capitalist (Dermot Mulroney), hits it big with the Apple 2 computer and builds an empire that he loses it to a power struggle with its chairman (J.K. Simmons) and CEO (Matthew Modine), only to return for a final retribution.
"Jobs" hits all the bullet points of Jobs's career, but aside from his awful treatment of his college girlfriend, his personal life is left mostly untouched. Even the cancer that killed him goes without mention.
The script doesn't offer much outside of basic plot, with Jobs speaking almost entirely in the rhetoric of an Apple commercial. He lectures ad nauseam about taking risks, about doing things differently, about anticipating the market rather than chasing it, but the film doesn't really show us how different his products were. His platitudes wow his apostles on screen but viewers will find them tiring. Much of the dialogue blends together, with only a few scenes – particularly an amusing discussion between Jobs and Wozniak about naming their new company, and an angry voice mail Steve leaves for Bill Gates – stick in your head once it's over.
Ashton Kutcher is Acting with a capital A, complete with a hunched over, toe-to-heel gait and weird convulsions when he cries. As Jobs's nerdy best friend, Josh Gad stands out, not only as comic relief but also most believably disappointed in Jobs's corporate bad behavior. Many of the other characters repeat the refrain that success has changed Jobs. But whatever consequences Jobs does face for being a jerk – alienating his friends, losing his company — they never actually shake him enough to reconsider his attitudes (weird crying fits aside).
"Jobs" isn't a terrible movie. It's just that, for showing the rise and career of an icon so innovative, it sticks disappointingly close to what is expected. It hits all the salacious detail of Jobs's ascension: his daughter out of wedlock whose paternity he denied, his spurning of his business partners, his reputation for being an all-around pain to work with. At the very least, "Jobs" should be praised for its willingness to make its main character look like a jerk.
In fact, rarely do you feel like rooting for the film's hero, as the character never experiences real contrition. Jobs is as autocratic, idealistic and uncompassionate at the film's end as he is in the beginning. It's only when you turn your iPhone back on after the film's long two hours do you remember why everyone worshipped this guy in the first place.