The actor gets some kudos, but early reviews say his movie bio is an over-polished Apple

By Tom Gliatto
Updated January 26, 2013 12:30 PM
Credit: Pacific Coast News; Landov

The new biopic of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher in a nerdy beard premiered at the Sundance Film Festival Friday to an early round of mixed reviews.

The Two and a Half Men star won respectful praise for tackling such an iconic role in jOBS, but indications are that this apparently adulatory portrait of the techno-genius is not The Social Network for computers.

The Hollywood Reporter reviewer Justin Lowe calls the film – directed by Joshua Michael Stern and covering the rise, fall and rise of the brilliant innovator in the years leading up to the introduction of the iPod – “passably entertaining,” but closer to a “two-hour commercial” than a real interpretation of a life. Kutcher manages to re-create Jobs’ mannerisms and is at his best in speeches “haranguing his employees or board of directors.”

• If “the movie avoids outright hagiography,” says Variety critic Justin Chang, it “more or less embodies the sort of bland, go-with-the-flow creative thinking Jobs himself would have scorned.” Kutcher’s performance is “carefully judged,” but despite “an impressive attempt at vocal mimickry . the illusion never fully seizes hold.”

Indiewire admires “Kutcher’s committed performance, certainly his most impressive turn in years, which conveys the character’s focused, manipulative intentions in each calculated look.” But the tone of the movie, which critic Eric Cohn grades a “C plus,” is so worshipful at times it borders on “creepy.

CNET‘s Casey Newton also praises Kutcher for his determination to capture the physical essence of the man, not to mention having to handle “fully 40 percent of the lines,” but the movie fails to create any supporting characters to share the screen. “The viewer spends two hours watching cardboard cutouts lose arguments to Ashton Kutcher.”

• Finally, according to Vince Horiuchi in The Salt Lake Tribune, Kutcher is “not the casting disaster that some thought he might be.” However, “he is much too tall.”

The movie, which costars Josh Gad (1600 PENN) as Steve Wozniak, will be released April 19 – the 37th anniversary of the founding of Apple Computer.