Josh Gad-Ashton Kutcher-Ron Eldard-680
Photo by Glen Wilson - Courtesy of Open Road Films

The saga of Steve Jobs is as familiar to the present generation as the lore surrounding such historic figures as Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. That places even greater pressure on the people behind this film to engage us and—even more important—illuminate key elements of the story. Sorry to say, they don’t.

The film works best early on, because the genesis of a great idea is always the most interesting part. Watching how the young, ambitious college drop-out uses his wits and his wiles to develop an exciting idea and bring it to life—with his pal Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) and a motley team of recruits in his parents’ garage—is great fun.

But as soon as the film leaves this early period behind for the boardroom politics of Apple and Jobs’ failures as a boyfriend, father, and friend, it begins to resemble an old-fashioned Hollywood biopic. It’s smoothly done, under Joshua Michael Stern’s direction, but we know most of the story already, and while Ashton Kutcher does a decent job in the leading role, there is no layering to Matt Whiteley’s writing or the star’s earnest performance.

When it’s all over, we haven’t learned much or been left with anything to chew on except the price of success in today’s version of the American dream. Jobs resembles a competent TV movie but never penetrates the thought process that made its protagonist so dynamic, so driven, or so ruthless.