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Jobs (Blu-ray Review)

2 Jan, 2014 By: John Latchem

Box Office $16.13 million
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some drug content and brief strong language.
Stars Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas,
Matthew Modine, J.K. Simmons, Lesley Ann Warren, Ron Eldard, Kevin Dunn, James Woods.

There’s a story in the life of Steve Jobs about an ambitious young man who is forced to leave the company he founded, only to mature and reclaim it years later after learning from his mistakes.

This, however, is not the story that Jobs the movie tells. The film presents Jobs as a mostly unlikable opportunist who exploits the talents and ideas of those around him, discards them when he has no more use for them, and generally acts like a spoiled prick. There are no doubt elements of truth to this characterization, which wouldn’t be a problem if the movie didn’t think it was presenting Jobs as a sympathetic, put-upon genius.

Ashton Kutcher carries the film as much as he can in the title role with a fair approximation of Jobs’ mannerisms, and a better script might have actually proved him to be inspired casting. The film is actually stocked with great performers who do what they can with the material, particularly Josh Gad as Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple Computer with Jobs.

However, instead of focusing on just how Jobs’ accomplishments are iconic, the film assumes the audience shares a love for Apple products and would be engaged simply by witnessing how they evolved. How else can one explain one of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes of all time, as the film opens with Jobs introducing the iPod to the thunderous applause of his employees? (Hey, I love the iPod, and its coolness factor is undeniable, but it’s still just a music player.)

Certainly, the story carefully covers the checklist of the key moments of the history of Apple, which should appease a great deal of the company’s aficionados who have an affinity for its hardware. (I personally got a kick out of seeing the creation of the Lisa, an expensive boondoggle of a home computer that my dad happened to buy instead of the Macintosh, which he considered underpowered at the time.)

As a character study, however, the film falls short because it has no interest in exploring just how Jobs was able to grow into the man who could return to save the company he founded. Many who knew the man would attribute this maturity to his time spent developing NeXT, the software company he founded after leaving Apple. Eventually, Apple would buy out NeXT, which is what brought Jobs back to the company and led to its rebirth in the late 1990s.

As portrayed, however, the older Jobs comes across as maybe a little more responsible, but once he gets back to Apple, his new tenure seems more defined by getting even with those who wronged him before he left the first time, rather than how he moved the company forward.

The muddled focus of the film seems to be a systemic flaw in the filmmakers’ approach to the material. Speaking in his commentary, director Joshua Michael Stern confesses that Jobs’ period at NeXT was uninteresting to him, and he dismisses any need to portray it because “this is a movie about Apple.” I’m sure anyone who misunderstood the point of the film from its title can be forgiven.

Aside from the commentary, the Blu-ray is extremely light on extras, offering a few deleted scenes and three short featurettes that were probably originally online previews focusing on the film’s music, Kutcher’s performance and Jobs’ legacy.

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