Bicentennial Man

on December 17, 1999 by Mike Kerrigan
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This is almost two films, and not just because it leisurely runs past two hours or has more producers than Henry VIII had wives.
The first film is a gentle tale of a family adapting to life with a robot--one that seems to have an infinite capacity for learning and even displays some human emotions like satisfaction in a job well done.
Then, in a series of time jumps, what is virtually a sequel gets into the murky waters of just what is human and what is artificial as our brushed-steel hero strives to become completely mortal. The reason--and here it gets really weird--is that he wants to marry the granddaughter of the little girl he helped raise decades earlier.
The robot Andrew (Robin Williams), with the help of a mad scientist (Oliver Platt), turns what had been an amiable can man into something resembling a middle-aged comedian who used to play Mork from Ork on television. They don't stop there. Artificial organs are invented and installed. Pretty soon the now human-looking Andrew can eat, drink and even break wind. Isn't science wonderful?
The film looks great and all the special effects are stunning. It arcs from 2005 to 2205 with fascinating visions of the cities, and styles, of the future. Acting is top notch from a strong cast, especially the gorgeous Embeth Davidtz ("Mansfield Park") in a tricky dual role. But it is all just so damned serious.
Williams plays it very low-key, as is appropriate, and it is an impressive performance. But you long for him to break the metal mold, if only for a minute, to remind you that you are watching the best improvisational comedian of this millennium. Starring Robin Williams, Embeth Davidtz, Sam Neil and Oliver Platt. Directed by Chris Columbus. Written by Nicholas Kazan. Produced by Wolfgang Petersen, Gail Katz, Neal Miller, Laurence Mark, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe and Michael Barnathan. A Buena Vista release. Drama. Rated PG for language and some sexual content. Running time: 131 min
Tags: Starring Robin Williams, Embeth Davidtz, Sam Neil and Oliver Platt. Directed by Chris Columbus. Written by Nicholas Kazan. Produced by Wolfgang Petersen, Gail Katz, Neal Miller, Laurence Mark, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe, Michael Barnathan, Buena Vista, Drama
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