Launching the iKutcher

Perhaps the most compelling thing about this frequently confounding Steve Jobs biopic is not the man himself or the flashy actor (Ashton Kutcher) who vanishes inside his turtlenecks, but the technology itself that spawned the man and the mythology.

After a (presumably) tongue-incheek opener that finds Jobs introducing the iPod to a hilariously rapturous audience, we delve back to the mid-’70s world of clunky mainframes, whirring tapes and rotary phones to watch a young Jobs and his nerdy tech wiz partner Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) make Apple computers in a garage with what looks like a few hunks of junk.

Watching this visionary schemer and his goofy teddy bear companion forge a sleek new world from essentially nothing is truly awe-inspiring. However, the tech mostly takes a backseat to Jobs’ dramatic arc as a small-time circuit board hustler who becomes king of the (virtual) world, with plenty of betrayals and back-stabbings along the way.

The problem is, there’s just too much story for the film’s two-hour running time, so we are presented with a series of vignettes that move the story forward, but never connect the dots. Jobs’ thorny relationship with his daughter, for example, is shoe-horned in with a couple of incidental scenes that offer more questions than answers.

Clearly, director Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote) struggled over what kind of story he wanted to tell: a complicated character study or a superhero origin tale. He attempts both, and it doesn’t quite work. Still, Kutcher is remarkable in his role, mimicking the tech-god’s mannerisms with astonishing accuracy. If Jobs proves nothing else, it shows that the Kutcher can wholly disappear into a role.

That’s not quite enough to enthusiastically recommend this unwieldy biography, but it’s a decent first stab at a powerful story that will doubtlessly be retold for years to come.

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