"Bicentennial Man" had everything going to set it up as a film I wanted to hate. To start with you have to question any film widely advertised on the sides of busses. The trailer only cemented my fears of it being yet another wacky feel-good dramadey that Touchstone Pictures has become famous for releasing.
In the usual 90 second long preview blipvert, we are assured that "BiCentennial Man" will be wholesome fun for the whole family. It's the new movie from director Chris Columbus and mega-star Robin Williams, the creative duo that brought "Mrs. Doubtfire" to life, pairing to tell the story of what kind of zany problems rich Americans will have to deal with in the future when their robot-butlers develop an attitude.
But all of the hype-machine glosses over that "BiCentennial Man" is based on a short story from the legendary science fiction of Isaac Asimov, and thankfully the films creators DIDN'T forget, and the film actually depicts the tale of Asimov's "Positronic Man", surprisingly well.
The "Bicentennial Man", played by Williams, follows the human growth of a domestic servant robot named Andrew over his (or should I say "it's"?) 200 year long lifespan. Early on it is established that Andrew isn't like other robots of his kind, and with the encouragement of Sam Neill, ( playing the Dad role once again), and Andrews special bond with the familys little girl (played by the former Pepsi girl Embeth Davidtz) that he attempts to reach his potential as an android and ultimately a man.
Along his quest, the people in his life pass on, and are replaced with grandchildren and great grandchildren that reconnect with Andrew in ever-evolving ways. During this timeframe, Andrew reaches closer to his ultimate goal of being considered human when he meets up with the scruffy but lovable scientist Rupert Burns played by Oliver Platt. Platts performance adds some life to the movie and to Williams' character by replacing Andrew's silver metal exterior with a skin that lets Robin Williams act to his full expressive potential.
"BiCentennial Man" is a movie that sometimes feels like two flavors crammed together. The majority of the film is a slice of meaningful science fiction, asking us to question what it means to be human and the importance of being unique, through the eyes of an android. This is coupled with a smattering of cute shcmalzty moments that we've come to expect this time of year. If you're expecting More "Mrs. Doubtfire", think again. The movie doesn't deliver on the 90 minutes of slapstick laughs the commercials suggest, but the audience will receive an intellectual and spiritual treat.
© 2002 - Purple - Air Date: 12/15/99
USA - 1999