Steve Jobs sits alone in a dark room, reading notes from a set of index cards and a MacBook Pro. The janitor walks in and tell him he should go to sleep. Steve replies, “Yeah, I will, I will. I just need to rehearse this keynote speech for tomorrow.” The janitor laughs. “That’s what you told me four hours ago!”
This is the opening scene of “iSteve,” Funny Or Die’s new Steve Jobs biopic-comedy. It’s also the closest thing to reality you will see over the next seventy-eight minutes.
Watching this movie felt a lot like using a PC. I spent half the time staring at the screen in utter bewilderment, and the other half desperately trying to figure out how something so void of any semblance of taste was actually OK’d by anyone at any level of the production.
Following the brief dialogue between Steve Jobs and the janitor on the eve of one of his many keynotes, Steve decides to recount the story of his life for the viewing audience. It all starts when he meets a guru in India who gives him LSD, promising that it will make him “think different,” and tells him to save it for a moment when he needs to see the future.
This leads to a “joke” that never really gets funny in which Steve insists on trying the acid immediately while the guru keeps stopping him and telling him to do it later. The first time it happens it’s not funny, so it should come as no surprise that when they repeat the same exact “joke” again ten seconds later, it doesn’t get any better.
Steve returns to his garage and describes his work at Atari and his love of beautiful typefaces. A shy neighbor wanders in and introduces himself as Steve Wozniak. I believe there were two or three jokes here, but I can’t be certain. They certainly weren’t very good if they were there.
After finding a common interest in computers, the two immediately get drunk and discuss jetpacks and flying cars. When Woz gets upset that Star Trek has already revealed all of the future’s secrets, Jobs remembers the gift from the guru. The ensuing acid trip sequence gives Steve the idea to build a personal computer, among other little things like the design for the original iPod ad campaign.
The two Steves immediately build the Apple I. I don’t mean they immediately sat down and began months of work that culminated in a demo model. I mean that the same night they had the idea, they put together the entire computer.
Steve and Steve take their creation to the Homebrew Computer Club and show if off to a group of societal outcasts, including “some new guy” named Bill Gates. There was a small bit of the scene which was was one of the few moments that actually made me chuckle. Gates says that he wants to shake the hand of the man who designed the Apple I. Steve Jobs reaches out and shakes his hand, but Woz continues to awkwardly stand there with his hand out for the remainder of the scene while Bill Gates ignores him and talks to Steve Jobs. Let that sink in. A guy holding his hand out awkwardly was one of the few funny moments in the entire “comedy.”
Gates and Jobs become best friends (or “gigabuddies” as they obnoxiously continue to refer to themselves). They get together in Jobs’ garage to build a computer in a barely-humorous scene that depicts them hard at work with tape measures, a hammer, and a saw, hacking away at random pieces of electronic equipment on a desk.
Bill’s friend Melinda comes into the garage and says that one of the guys should go with her to roller-disco for the two-for-one price. Woz sits dejectedly in the back, insisting that all four can go together, but is ignored as Bill and Steve argue over who should go with Melinda. Steve concedes to Bill, and thus begins the Steve and Melinda “forbidden romance” subplot. Yes, that is a real subplot in this movie.
A brief montage shows the growth of Apple in Steve Jobs’ living room followed a rather boring scene in which the iconic photo of a young Steve Jobs holding the apple is taken and Woz is pushed further away by Jobs. Then things start to get really, really weird.
The CEO of Commodore sends his henchman John Sculley to end Steve Jobs before he takes over the entire computer industry. Sculley the meets Jobs at his thirtieth birthday party right after Steve has unveiled the original Macintosh. John lies about working for PepsiCo and convinces Steve to sign over fifty-one percent of Apple, making him the new CEO.
The next morning Steve shows up at work only to learn that Sculley has fired him. What follows is one of the most dramatic scenes in the film. Steve explodes, telling Sculley that he will change the world without Apple. Aside from an attempted bit of humor at the end of the scene, this is probably the best-executed moment in the entire movie. It doesn’t try to to be very funny and make light of what was actually a serious situation. As Woz walks out of the conference room, he delivers his best line to John Sculley: “He’s better than you. He’s better than all of us!”
Jobs secludes himself in his house, sells all of his possessions (including the black turtleneck the now-married Bill and Melinda Gates gave him for his birthday), but has a sudden flash of brilliance when an old lady tries to buy his desk lamp.
Steve goes to talk to his friend George Lucas and pitches the idea for computer-animated movies. Lucas in turn pitches his ideas for the Star Wars prequels. The scene is forced and terribly boring.
As if things had not already gotten weird enough, Melinda Gates calls Steve an tells her that she has been separated from Bill for a month. He invites her over and—I swear to you this is true—they don virtual-reality headsets and have a computer-generated fling.
The scene cuts back to the old Steve narrating the story. He suddenly flops over and stops talking. A technician in a white lab coat comes in, cuts open Steve’s shirt, removes a circuit board, fixes it, puts it back in Steve, and smokes a cigarette while Steve plays the Mac startup sound and reboots. I wish I was joking.
Return to Apple
Steve resumes his story, which picks up at Woodstock ’94, where he drops acid with the lead singer of The Smashing Pumpkins. I know I keep saying this, but I am being entirely serious. The musician makes a series of drug-induced suggestions, such as Macs that are different colors, like an eyeball. He even suggests calling it the “eyeMac.” Another of his suggestions is a portable music player that doesn’t use discs.
We return to the Commodore headquarters, where the CEO berates Sculley for having not only destroyed Apple, but the entire computer industry. He then bites a cyanide pill and dies. Sculley runs across the room and grabs another of the pills. Both men convulse in their seats and foam at the mouth. I should point out that the name of the site that published this movie is “Funny or Die,” so perhaps these characters really deserved their fates.
Jobs returns to Apple and sets out on designing the iPod. While searching for the perfect spokesman, he sees the movie Jeepers Creepers playing in the Apple lobby. Things start to get weirdly meta when he immediately focuses his attention on Justin Long and brings him in to star in his new ad campaign. Justin Long was played by another actor, because the real Justin Long was busy playing Steve Jobs.
Melinda Gates confesses her virtual affair with Steve Jobs to her husband, who goes to confront Steve. He finds Jobs yelling at Justin Long and John Hodgeman on the set of the first “Get a Mac” commercial. The two moguls then get into a terribly unfunny fistfight. Steve goes to a bar where he meets Michael Dell. Dell goes off on a rant about how he doesn’t want to build great computers and then leaves. This scene was apparently supposed to be funny.
As the story draws to a close, we are “treated” to a terrible rendition of Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech, which the narrator repeatedly implores the viewer to lookup on YouTube. If I’m not mistaken, this was supposed to be a joke, but it doesn’t work at all. Instead it comes across as “we know this is terrible, please watch the original.”
In this version of the speech, Jobs pulls his last LSD tab out of his pocket and goes on a wild trip that reveals the name of the iPhone. We also see that he learned about making the inside of his work as beautiful as the outside (as well as the term “beveled edge”) from his father while painting a fence. This scene is entirely irrelevant to the rest of the story and seemingly stuck in just because someone thought they should explain where he got the term from.
Steve Jobs calls up Steve Wozniak and apologizes for their falling out. Woz finds him in his garage trying to find a way to combine a notepad with a computer. They decide to team up to build the MacBook, although we never actually see any of their work come to fruition.
This is interrupted by the janitor returning to tell narrator Steve that it’s time to let the crowds in for his keynote. As Steve ends his story, he reveals that he never used the last tab of acid and instead sent it back to the monk in India on a postcard. The monk replies via email using his iPad, which had not actually been invented at the time of the commencement speech. This might have been another failed joke or just a big oversight. I don’t really know or care at this point.
The last thing Steve says before the credits roll is, “this room is actually heaven.” At this point I shouldn’t have to say this, but I think that was supposed to be funny.
One More Thing
This movie is easily the worst possible story that could have been done in the name of Steve Jobs. Many people believed that the biopic starring Aston Kutcher would be the worst thing to happen to the memory of Apple’s great innovator, but it seems those people were wrong.
Funny or Die (and everyone involved) should be ashamed of this garbage. There are two ways you can go with a film like this. You can either stick to the facts, or you can make something funny and exaggerated. This is just exaggerated. There is nothing funny here. This movie is not worth the nearly eighty minutes that you will hopefully decide not to spend watching it.
According to Twitter, the comments on the video, and the video’s overall “funny or die” rating, most people agree with this assessment.
The worst part of this is that FoD could have created something really great. They have the resources and the manpower to produce a truly funny Steve Jobs parody. Others have done it before. Instead, they created this travesty. I feel like the only joke to be found in iSteve is the fact that Funny or Die tricked us into wasting an hour and twenty minutes watching it.
Do not watch this movie.