Review: Jobs the movie applies its own reality distortion field

In true Hollywood fashion, the acting is good but the script leaves too many things out

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Other corporate missteps, including the failed Apple III, are never mentioned; instead, we're given the impression that it's not Jobs who is his own worst enemy, but the board of directors. Darn corporate bureaucracy! If they'd just listened to Jobs, everything would've been fine!

But Jobs doesn't listen to anyone; hes too obsessed with creating insanely great products. When Woz finally decides to leave Apple, he bids Jobs a tearful farewell, saying that both Jobs and the company have forgotten their original enthusiasm. "You're the beginning and end of your world, Steve," Woz laments. "It's so small and so sad."

The truth -- that Woz had gotten married, been in a near-fatal plane accident, and decided to return to college -- wouldn't make Jobs look nearly as bad.

For sure, Josh Gad's Woz is likable: innocent, faithful, endearingly awkward. But he sometimes feels more like a Big Bang Theory character that we're supposed to laugh at instead of with. The real Woz wasn't nearly as portly, unkempt, or outspoken as the film version.

As with Woz's departing speech, which Jobs silently absorbs, the film sports numerous monologues, from rousing speeches to scathing attacks, that are intended to flesh out various characters, but they often fall flat. Jobs tries to compensate by slathering those scenes with an overbearing soundtrack, as though the audience wouldn't know it's watching a dramatic moment if not for the sweeping score. If you want witty, snappy dialogue, wait for Sony's supposed adaptation of Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography, with a script by Aaron Sorkin of West Wing fame.

For all the film's historical and dramatic faults, the acting is quite good, starting with the uncanny casting of Kutcher in the title role. When Kutcher first steps on stage, it's hard not to hear his voice as that of Kelso from That Seventies Show. But he soon becomes the intense, idiosyncratic CEO the public saw on stage. Other historical figures are cast with similar accuracy, so much so that the end credits showcase the resemblance with side-by-side photos of the actors and their real-life counterparts.

Though I delighted in seeing Jobs immortalize my heroes and icons -- I still have an Apple II on my desk -- I suspect I'm more the exception than the rule in finding this film entertaining. Jobs feels like a movie that doesn't stand alone: It requires some prior knowledge of the players and plot. If it were a prequel, it would be one that demonstrates how known characters ended up where they did, instead of adding something new to a hero's backstory. Its opening and closing bookends are shallow. By focusing on Jobs' experiences at Apple, the film doesn't show us what made him such a quixotic, disloyal taskmaster in the first place, and a less-rushed ending could've allowed for a more meaningful coda, offering up some resolution or at least an opportunity to reflect on the hero's journey. What we get instead is a creative retelling that's inaccurate for those of us familiar with the tale and superficial for everyone else.

The official trailer for Jobs.

Ken Gagne is a freelance writer covering Macs, retrocomputing and electronic entertainment. Find him at KenGagne.com or on Twitter at @IDGagne.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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