From the very first scene of "Jobs," starring Ashton Kutcher as Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, you know exactly where this movie is going. Standing before his famous bitten-fruit logo, Jobs delivers a 2001 keynote speech about a new gadget that plays music. "Introducing the iPod," he says.
The crowd goes wild. The applause, cheers and high-pitched screams suggest that this landmark moment is supposed to be a spine-tingler. Instead, it's a heart-sinker.
"Jobs" turns out to be the IBM PCjr of biographical dramas, hampered by creaky formatting and thinking entirely inside the box. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern ("Swing Vote") and written by first-timer Matt Whitely, it's a hasty playlist of Jobs' greatest hits. (Another Jobs film is reportedly in production with Aaron Sorkin as screenwriter.) This is a familiar story told in the most familiar way: The budding visionary and the start-up crew, then the sudden riches and damaged friendships. Cue the tearful speech from Josh Gad as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak: "Something's happening to you, Steve."
Kutcher does a fine approximation of Jobs -- the sky-blue jeans, the lanky gait -- but the character is shallow, speaking in buzzwords like "limitless" and "dream." The film never views Jobs from a fresh angle nor places him in larger context. It skims his barefoot, druggie college days, but doesn't seem aware that Jobs was deeply influenced by the 1960s. Apple was one of many California-based, hippie-era businesses (like the Whole Earth Catalog, a major inspiration for Jobs) that merged counterculture ideals with capitalism. Wouldn't it have been interesting to see how Jobs squared these notions? And to see the graying pioneer compete with a new generation of post-hippie innovators like, say, Google? But "Jobs" couldn't care less.
It doesn't even care about the cancer -- never mentioned -- that killed him in 2011. Instead of showing his struggle to run a company while battling the disease, "Jobs" ends with a series of long, boring boardroom coups (Dermot Mulroney and Matthew Modine play the suits). "Jobs" mainly wants to state the obvious: This guy made awesome stuff! That's certainly true, but the movie is everything Jobs tried not to be: unimaginative, uninspired and typical.
PLOT The life story of Apple co-founder and technological innovator Steve Jobs
RATING PG-13 (language, brief drug use)
CAST Ashton Kutcher, Josh Gad, Dermot Mulroney
BOTTOM LINE Some fine moments from Kutcher as the visionary Jobs, but this sub-par biopic is basically a hasty hash of the obituaries you've already read.