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Overall Rating

Awesome: 15.69%
Worth A Look: 13.73%
Pretty Bad: 21.57%
Total Crap: 23.53%

7 reviews, 60 user ratings

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Bicentennial Man
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by EricDSnider

"One of the reasons we didn't like Robin Williams for a while."
2 stars

Robin Williams may be stuck. His wacky improvisational style of comedy -- think "Aladdin" and "Mrs. Doubtfire" -- has grown stale (think "Patch Adams"), but giving him a more focused, less frenetic role, as in the new "Bicentennial Man," is just as dull, but for different reasons.

That leaves him only the dramatic roles, which he has proven he can do well ("Good Will Hunting," "Dead Poets Society"), but not consistently ("Jakob the Liar").

In "Bicentennial Man," Williams plays a robot named Andrew. His head looks like a cross between a crash-test dummy and an iMac. He's purchased by the Martin family, for whom he does household chores, in accordance with the three laws governing robots: Can't hurt people, must obey orders, must protect himself. (For movies about suburban families who get strange visitors with three rules attached to them, see "Gremlins.") He immediately starts exhibiting signs of actual life and feeling. (See "Short Circuit.")

The movie plays out for a while like you'd expect it to. The rebellious teen daughter hates him, while the adorable little daughter loves him. Just as you're handling yet another domestic comedy with a twist -- their BUTLER is a ROBOT! -- we jump ahead 15 years in time. The younger daughter gets married, even though Andrew is her best friend.

More time passes. Andrew wants his freedom. His owner (Sam Neill) lets him go. He builds his own house on the beach. More time passes. People get old and die. He meets the younger daughter's granddaughter (that younger daughter is now quite old, you see), Portia (Embeth Davidtz), who looks exactly like her grandmother did when she was that age. (See "We Didn't Want to Hire Another Actress.")

With the help of a robot expert named Rupert (Oliver Platt), Andrew takes steps toward becoming a real person. First he has fake skin plastered all over his body, then fake nerves inserted, then fake organs, and so on. His goal: to become a real live person. (See "Pinocchio.")

This is billed as a family comedy, but it will never succeed as one. It's 2 hours and 10 minutes long -- far longer than most family comedies. Also, it abandons the cute little domestic situation, where most of the laughs are (Mr. Martin explaining sex and humor to Andrew is an amusing scene), early on.

After that, it eventually becomes even a little dark, as Andrew struggles with the fact that's immortal, but all the people he loves aren't. Director Chris Columbus ("Mrs. Doubtfire," "Stepmom") is the master of sap when it comes to that sort of thing, and it's played to the hilt here.

Eventually, 200 years have passed since the film started. Such a great space of time should give us the feeling we've watched a sweeping epic, a grand portrait of one robot's journey through life. But it doesn't. Instead, the frequent jumps in time simply keep us from getting too involved with any one situation, and the story becomes too serious to elicit much in the way of laughter.

Williams plays a robot fairly well in terms of voice and motion, hidden underneath an elaborate costume and machinery. Once he starts to look human, though, he loses it. Andrew is still a robot under the latex skin, yet Williams walks, talks and acts differently -- like a person, in fact, which is exactly what he is not supposed to be doing.

"Bicentennial Man" succeeds on the levels of special effects and makeup (particularly for the characters who age). But as a warm family comedy, it's low on laughs and unfocused in its themes.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 06/30/03 17:19:30
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User Comments

12/24/13 Michelle O farfetched and flimsy = even Robin's brilliance couldn't make this decent 2 stars
6/14/09 chippyneil isaac was ahead of his time.very thought provoking and yes emotional is,nt that the point.l 5 stars
3/08/08 Pamela White Futuristic and interesting that even a robot isn't happy with his body 4 stars
2/01/08 Lrd.Gov Jake B Privett Our Robin Williams only just makes this film watchable. He's a comic master. 3 stars
8/07/07 kedda ghazarian (other) hello other kedda ghazarian. we have the same name. i live in australia where are you from? 1 stars
8/27/05 ES Couldn't stand this movie, preachy PC crap, as if robots will be a future minority race 1 stars
8/22/05 Naka Nope. 2 stars
7/27/05 tony a very good film. the only drama movie williams dosnt ruin 4 stars
4/14/05 kArYn mEndOzA nicE mOviE 5 stars
11/19/04 Zeus Great movie 5 stars
10/22/04 dawn chai its a moving film about a life and love 5 stars
5/22/04 christen pachoco Superb!!! 5 stars
5/20/04 Jason Asimov must be spinning in his grave 1 stars
9/24/03 DM Starts okay, goes downhill fast 2 stars
6/27/03 cochese Man, for a big star Williams sure does pump out some shit movies. 1 stars
12/08/02 Nevz Muppets! watch the damn film properly! 4 stars
10/27/02 Matt Neopalitano Robin's acting talents would have been better applied to "Mork & Mindy 2000!". 1 stars
6/22/02 qtpie okay 3 stars
4/30/02 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne From promising start, dives into interminable bathos. 2 stars
4/24/02 Danielle Ophelia No one escapes unscathed...not even teh damn Key Grip. 1 stars
12/25/01 Andrew Carden It Wasn't A Disater In Any Way, but Neither Was It A Great Movie. 3 stars
11/21/01 Kenneth E. Carper Anyone who hates this movie is a heartless moron! 4 stars
8/29/01 Gary Bollocks 1 stars
8/09/01 Mr. Hat Interesting. Not always that good, but interesting. 3 stars
2/16/01 Jun Too shallow and too hollow the story line...what's more to say? 1 stars
1/30/01 puff the magic dragon Isaac asimov's wonderful story is reduced to sentimental slush !!! 3 stars
12/26/00 Turtle A Robin Williams flick that just cannot be missed! 5 stars
12/19/00 Paulsj Bring some Tissue!! I had to make sure I wasnt wearing a skirt , I cried so much!! 4 stars
11/24/00 Connoisseur I agree with Gen. 4 stars
9/12/00 Jed The heck with the critics this is a excellent movie. 5 stars
9/04/00 The Extreaminizer Brilliant Idea Killed by Slowness, Overlength, and Horrible Ending 1 stars
8/07/00 lulany I wanted to Like this movie because I love Robin but it's just too dull and predictable. 2 stars
7/31/00 Bender Overlong, but entertaining and touching. 4 stars
7/10/00 Art Richardson I loved this movie. RW is Awesome 5 stars
7/03/00 Jed &uck you people this is a very good film this proofs that critical treatment can be insane. 5 stars
6/23/00 fire-n-ice i loved this movie 5 stars
6/18/00 Gen I like the sci-fi futuristic stuff 4 stars
6/01/00 danilo how can you not like this movie? 5 stars
3/25/00 Richard Wright It would have been 3 stars if not for those SICK inducing final 20 mins,RW is a sappy b... 2 stars
3/09/00 David Rogers I hate the Pepsi girl! She can't act! That alone is the reason you should dump this. 2 stars
3/07/00 J. Alán Blankenship After all the lame movies that have come out, this one was a breath of fresh air. =) 4 stars
2/04/00 kedda ghazarian very very spectacular 5 stars
1/15/00 Kevin Cho Robin WIlliams HAS to stop making these movies. He is a great person, actor - MOVE ON! 2 stars
1/15/00 Marli It'a good if you watch it just for fun 4 stars
1/10/00 Jim Russo TV ads show it as Robin W. comedy - - and so it draws kids and parents - - what a rip off. 1 stars
1/05/00 Joel Harwood It makes u laugh and cry 5 stars
1/02/00 Richard Hendricks Great chick-flick. Stays close enough to the book to make it worthwhile. It's hollywood! 4 stars
12/31/99 W. Krauss pleasant change of pace----good acting 4 stars
12/29/99 Booyah! This was crap. People who take stuff like this as good film need to look a bit deeper. 1 stars
12/29/99 Nessus Ham fisted at times and slow at others, but with some redeeming qualities. 3 stars
12/26/99 Lame-Oh it was okay 3 stars
12/25/99 Ken Kopin As good as can be expected. (Should have been 6 hours long to do justice to the story.) 4 stars
12/22/99 PhilmPhreak It didn't suck. 4 stars
12/19/99 Boyd What's another word for putrid? 1 stars
12/19/99 Mr Showbiz Doggedly uplifting scifi heart-tugger. 2 stars
12/14/99 Steven Kelly I thought that it was awesome 5 stars
12/13/99 Malbert *Much* better than I expected, a very special movie 5 stars
12/12/99 jenn "Blu Smrf" powerful, amazing, moving,,,,need i say more? an all out incredible movie! 5 stars
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  17-Dec-1999 (PG)



Directed by
  Chris Columbus

Written by
  Nicholas Kazan

  Robin Williams
  Sam Neill
  Embeth Davidtz
  Oliver Platt
  Wendy Crewson
  Allan Rich

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