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Ashton Kutcher is playing Steve Jobs, not John Denver.

Biopics are always interesting. We learn things about people we didn’t know. They’re  usually frustrating, for the fictional things they include, but we’re used to that by now.

Director Joshua Michael Stern, who did the very enjoyable ParaNorman last year, gave Ashton Kutcher the best role of his career as Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs.

It’s a bit perplexing that in a two-hour movie, it often came off like it was made for TV. It also failed to tell us key things about certain people. I don’t know why the closing credits, with photos of the actual characters, didn’t have info on what they’re doing now. There were also things about Jobs that never made the movie. For example, how he was one of the men behind Pixar. Apparently, drugs and LSD also played a bigger part of his life than the movie showed. The one scene with him tripping was very well done, though.

A lot of critics will start their reviews by saying Jobs was a college dropout that went on to find success. The fact is, Jobs always tested off the charts in school. Teachers even wanted to move him up a few grades (none of that is covered in the film). Also, when he “dropped out” of college, he still sort of showed up for classes.

There’s something fun about watching a guy working in his parents garage with a fellow electronics geek friend Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad). How can you not root for a couple of computer nerds pitching their creation? Sure…just as you know that underdog boxer is going to win the big bout in the movie, we know Apple is going to be successful. It doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the ride.

I was a bit disappointed that the director didn’t delve into what was clearly a complex person with some kind of Borderline Personality Disorder or something. He can screw over founders of the company and be mean women he sleeps with – and he can be so inspirational to others.

A similar movie – The Social Network – portrayed those things so much better. In a strange coincidence, Aaron Sorkin is working on a script from a book about Jobs.

Dermot Mulroney shows up as an entrepreneur willing to invest in the company. J.K. Simmons shows up with hair, and it’s one of the few roles he’s disappointing in. It was the kind of villain you see in a bad miniseries.

Former Chula Vista resident Matthew Modine has an interesting, but bland role as John Sculley. Sculley left Pepsi after a famous “taste challenge” campaign, to become CEO of Apple.

This movie has an intriguing story, yet there just isn’t enough depth. We see only glimpses of these complex people.

Some montages were effectively done. A few of the things you learn about Jobs are interesting. I never knew he worked at Atari (or that he had bad hygiene).

If only filmmakers can find a way to make movies that take place in the ‘70s, without such goofy glasses that always distract the viewer.

The movie would get an extra star for having a strong soundtrack that included a few Cat Stevens songs, a few Dylan; Bach and Chopin, as well as Toad the Wet Sprocket and one of the great unknown ‘60s garage bands – The Brymers. I take away that point because the Joe Walsh and REO Speedwagon songs played in the movie actually came out a few years later than the 1976 time period they were used in.

It gets 2 ½ stars out of 5.


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