Bicentennial Man aims to turn that all around by making Williams something we can relate to once again. Ironically, that's not as a human: It's as a robot.
As the robotic Andrew, Williams starts out his life in 2005 San Francisco as a run-of-the-mill android with an unexplained glitch that makes him able to experience emotions and gives him creativity. Andrew then embarks on a 200-year quest to discover the nature of humanity, absorbing lessons on art, freedom, love, and ultimately mortality. (In other words, the same problems Williams was dealing with in Mork & Mindy.)
It's an ambitious movie and it positively sprawls at close to 2 1/2 hours in length. Audiences expecting that Robin slapstick are going to be sorely mistaken. As a robot, Andrew's only laughs come from his unintentional mangling of jokes and turns of the phrase like "Swine Lake."
No, they're not exactly belly laughs. And while Bicentennial Man is indeed a thoughtful drama with excellent production values, it's clearly lacking in a number of subtle ways. Most annoying is the plastic utopia that the film-world becomes, complete with (of course) flying cars, metallic skyscrapers, and all-white hospital interiors. San Francisco, one of the most crowded cities in the country, appears to be an oasis -- everyone's apartment is enormous -- I wish! In 2205, I don't expect the world's foremost concern will be wrestling over the question, Are robots human?
But my main criticism of the film is that its protagonist is obviously not a robot but is actually Robin Williams. Jim Carrey convinced us that he was Truman Burbank, and he convinced me that he was Andy Kaufman, too. Robin Williams does not convince you that he is anything other than Robin Williams. It's just a milder version of himself. It's Dead Poets Society Robin.
Despite its flaws, Bicentennial Man is largely watchable, a reasonably good time. Just don't expect a life-altering experience to be had. But do expect to see Williams back to his old song and dance again next year.
Run time: 132 mins
In Theaters: Friday 17th December 1999
Box Office Worldwide: $93.7M
Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures
Production compaines: 1492 Pictures, Columbia Pictures Corporation, Laurence Mark Productions, Radiant Productions, Touchstone Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 37%
Fresh: 35 Rotten: 60
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Chris Columbus
Screenwriter: Nicholas Kazan
Starring: Robin Williams as Andrew Martin, Sam Neill as Richard Martin, Embeth Davidtz as Little Miss, Oliver Platt as Rupert Burns, Kiersten Warren as Galatea, Wendy Crewson as 'Ma'am' Martin, Bradley Whitford as Lloyd Charney, Lindze Letherman as 'Miss' Grace Martin - Age 9, Angela Landis as 'Miss' Grace Martin, John Michael Higgins as Bill Feingold - Martin's Lawyer, Igor Hiller as Lloyd Charney - Age 10, Joe Bellan as Robot Delivery Man #1, Brett Wagner as Robot Delivery Man #2, Stephen Root as Dennis Mansky - Head of NorthAm Robotics, Hallie Kate Eisenberg as Little Miss Amanda Martin - Age 7
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