Bicentennial Man

Review Date:
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: Nicolas Kazan
Producers: Chris Columbus, Wolfgang Petersen, Gail Katz, L. Mark, N. Miller, M. Radcliffe, M. Barnathan
Robin Williams
Embeth Davidtz
Sam Neill
In the year 2005, a rich family buys a made-for-the-home robot/servant created to help them around the house. Over the years, the robot and others notice that he is different from the rest of his peers, this android appears to have some artistic talents, a personality and emotions. The film covers 200 years in the life of said machine, as he attempts to “evolve” into a human being, by the way of our world’s ever-changing technologies.
This ain’t a kids movie, folks! It only took about thirty minutes into this film for the kids in my theatre to start chattering it up. And that’s about where most of the “real comedy” ends and the existential drama begins. Don’t get me wrong here, the robot doesn’t suddenly begin quoting Kierkegaard or anything, but the movie is essentially an interesting adult film peppered with a few funny moments, all within a much deeper context of what defines a “human being”, how technology might affect our conditions in the future, what constitutes “freedom” and how love transcends all. Pretty deep for a Robin Williams movie, eh? Some of the things I liked about this film included its span time of 200 years, which I don’t remember ever seeing done in the same way, the concept itself, which dealt with one’s identity, the need for acknowledgment from others, and to a certain extent, racism or robotism, in this case. I also dug on all the cool little gadgeteries which became slicker and slicker as the years went by, as well as the consistently healthy performance from Oliver Platt.

What didn’t I like about the movie? Well, this also has to do with the fact that it spanned 200 years, since I wasn’t able to truly identify with any one human character across the entire film, save for the robot, to whom, I personally did not invest much emotion. I did however enjoy some of the human characters in the movie, but as you may have guessed by now, after 200 years, not too many of them were around at the end. And looking back, I think the film might have benefited more had it stuck to its sci-fi route, rather than its heavy-handed/humorous presentation here. I for one would’ve loved to see such a film done entirely in serious tone, as opposed to the generic humor that was tossed into this one every now and again (Maybe if it starred someone not known to most for comedy?). The film also ran a little long near the end with what eventually started to feel like a revolving plot door as the robot just continued to work on his condition year after year after year. In the end, despite the fact that it was set to touch our human emotions, I felt little more than the robot did at the beginning of the film. Interested yet cold and distant. All in all, the film was pretty engaging to watch all the way through, but seemed to have sacrificed further scientific depth in return for an unconvincing show of romance and humor. A nice try, but overall, no dice. I’d suggest you see it on video just for its original vision.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian