"Bicentennial Man"
Review written by: Alex Sandell


Robin Williams wonders,
while doing slave work for
the Pepsi Girl, if he could
ever be one of "the voices"
in her next series of television
ads, after Jakob the Liar and
this movie completely destroy
whatever career he once had
as an actor.  

What's the story?

Chris Columbus, director of light-hearted comedies with "heart," such as, Step Mom, Nine Months, Mrs. Doubtfire, Only the Lonely and both Home Alone films, teams up, for a second time, with Robin Williams, star of light-hearted comedies with "heart," such as, Jakob the Liar, What Dreams May Come, Flubber and Father's Day, to film what is essentially a sci-fi remake of Pinocchio; a light-hearted comedy with "heart," written by Carlo Collodi.

So how is it? (Get to the point, already)

In a perfect world, I would have gotten sick with a stomach virus 45 minutes into this film, ran out of the theater, puked all over the place, and then proceeded to leave with a smile on my face.  In that perfect world of puke and smiles, I would have told you how great this movie is; especially for a lighthearted comedy with "heart."  I would have told you how everyone in the theater laughed until they cried, and how, in-between every chortle, a mammoth collective grin covered our mawkish faces.  I would have probably mentioned how Robin Williams' android outfit restrained him into giving a good performance that didn't make him look like he was sniffing too much coke.  I would also have brought up how, although generic, the family unit was rather convincing, and worked well together.  Unfortunately, I didn't get sick 45 minutes into Bicentennial Man, and my stomach was able to make it through the remainder of the film's running time; another hour full of sickening, sugar-coated, artificial sentimentality that, by the end, had me wanting to puke.  

The first, non-vomit-inducing 45 minutes of Bicentennial Man, is a story of a family trying to adjust to living with a robot, and a robot trying to adjust to the family that's trying to adjust to it.  This fairly conventional storyline still allows for quite a few comical "fish-out-of-water" moments and a good amount of whimsical character interaction.  Surprisingly enough, Williams isn't pulling out all the stops to make us giggle; he's just acting for others to react to and reacting toward the way that they act.  It makes for a subtle, sweet, but not overly sappy story that would be perfect to just turn your mind off for, and delight in.  Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, the film doesn't end after just 45 minutes; it goes on for another 60.  

The last half of the film switches gears from a family-friendly comedy to a nearly humorless, and totally inept, biography of an android in a crisis.  Obviously, we are meant to feel sympathy, and a little guilt, over the disheartening "life and times" of this unfortunate android.  With every twist of the plot, the film seems to nod its head at us, as if to say, "have you learned anything yet?  Did we pull any heart-strings? Huh?  Did we???"  

The film falters when Williams the robot decides he wants "freedom"; which means nothing more than that he wants to officially be a part of the family he has worked for for years, rather than be their property.  For reasons untold, this displeases his usually congenial master (Sam Neill), and the android is exiled from the family that he cherishes.  The android (fortuitously named "Andrew" by that Pepsi chick who keeps sticking her cutesy little face into everything, these days) builds a house for himself out on the beach, with the colossal amount of money he's made over the years from building clocks (don't ask), and then takes a couple of decades off to wander the earth and find a kindred spirit.  

Of course, over the two-hundred years of android life that the film spans, we have to see Andrew's friends die, one after another, and watch Andrew mourn over each of them.  We have to watch Andrew pleading that he is, indeed, a human ("I am not a machine").  We have to see Andrew fall in and out of love.  And, when Columbus and Williams notice that this "comedy" hasn't had a laugh in nearly 40 minutes, we get to listen to Andrew the Android fart in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.  After 40 minutes of melodramatic sap, a digital fart is too little too late . . . even if it is in Dolby. 

What are you selling us here???

The fact that clothing and hairstyles won't change, even remotely, over the next 200 years.

If it won an Oscar, what would it be?

"Sappiest Movie Since Robin Williams' Last Sappy Movie" - Bicentennial Man

On a scale of 1-10?

4

Agree? Disagree? Wanna have cyber-sex? Email me at alex@juicycerebellum.com

Text (Copyright) 1999 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved]. People that copy copyrighted material without permission spend eternity in Hell, with their eyelids peeled off, watching every Chris Columbus, Robin Williams and John Hughes' movie ever made (expect for the couple of good ones).

Photo Copyright 1999 Mickey Mouse/Disney/Touchstone/Whatever-Company-Disney-Currently-Owns

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