updated 08:13 pm EDT, Wed April 17, 2013
Justin Long stars as Jobs throughout his life in satirical biopic
A satirical look at the life of Steve Jobs starring former Apple pitchman Justin Long has debuted after being delayed slightly due to the bombing at the Boston Marathon on Monday. The film from comedy site Funny or Die, called iSteve, is an 79-minute romp through some of the well-known chapters of the life of Apple's co-founder and former CEO. In addition to Long -- who plays Jobs from the age of 19 onwards -- the movie stars Jorge Garcia (Lost) as Steve Wozniak, Venture Brothers voice James Urbaniak as Bill Gates and Michaela Watkins as Melinda Gates.
As one might expect, the film takes tremendous liberties with events and the characters of the story, but does hit many of the notable highs and lows of Jobs' career, including his mind-altering trip to India as a college dropout, his debut of the original Macintosh, his firing from Apple and his subsequent return after founding NeXT and buying Pixar. In a satirical nod to comments from Aaron Sorkin that his own, big-budget Sony biopic of Jobs will be framed in a series of three moments just before life-changing keynote speeches, iSteve also opens with Jobs rehearsing prior to a keynote speech and recalling the story of his life in flashbacks.
The film, which is currently only available on the Funny or Die website, earns the distinction of being the first full-length film about Jobs since his death in 2011 to debut publicly, as well as being the site's first long-form project. A completed theatrical film starring Ashton Kutcher as Jobs was shown at Sundance in January, but its planned April release date was pushed back and does not currently have any firm opening date. The Sorkin-written Sony movie is not expected in the near future, and is currently still in pre-production with no casting yet announced.
As for iSteve, reaction has been mixed. While effective as a parody of the best-known legends regarding the mercurial CEO as well as the announced biopics of Jobs, the film is thin on genuine laughs -- though a moment where Long (playing Jobs) spots actor "Justin Long" in another low-budget movie called Jeepers Creepers and decides to cast (and later direct) the actor in a series of "Mac vs. PC" ads is very amusing, along with several other scenes in the film -- Wozniak fans in particular will either be bemused or appalled at both Garcia's portrayal and the script's treatment of him.
A cursory viewing of the film suggests that while it may or may not be sufficiently comedic for its intended audience -- and definitely wears its low-budget, rapidly-made status on its sleeve -- its tone does nothing to make light of Jobs' contributions in life, and should be seen as an affectionate parody. The cast, many festooned in wigs from the period, seem mostly well-chosen and perform their roles well.
Long, who obviously worked with Jobs as the star of the company's most successful ad campaign, doesn't go for an impression of the man and instead uses his own boyish looks and charm to communicate (satirically) Jobs' powers of charisma and "reality distortion." Given the quickness of the project, some praise should be directed at the filmmakers for loading the film with period props and styles that make the amount of effort put in and their affection for the 1970s and 80s obvious.