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Bicentennial Manwas stung at the 1999 box office, due no doubt in part to poor timing during a backlash against Robin Williams and his treacly performances in two other, then-recent releases,Jakob the LiarandPatch Adams. But this near-approximation of a science fiction epic, based on works by Isaac Asimov and directed, with uncharacteristic seriousness of purpose, by Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire), is much better than one would have known from the knee-jerk negativity and box-office indifference.

Williams plays Andrew, a robot programmed for domestic chores and sold to an upper-middle-class family, the Martins, in the year 2005. The family patriarch (Sam Neill) recognizes and encourages Andrew's uncommon characteristics, particularly his artistic streak, sensitivity to beauty, humor, and independence of spirit. In so doing, he sets Williams's tin man on a two-century journey to become more human than most human beings.

As adapted by screenwriter Nicholas Kazan, the movie's scale is novelistic, though Columbus isn't the man to embrace with Spielbergian confidence its sweeping possibilities. Instead, the Home Alone director shakes off his familiar tendencies to pander and matures, finally, as a captivating storyteller. But what really makes this film matter is its undercurrent of deep yearning, the passion of Andrew as a convert to the human race and his willingness to sacrifice all to give and take love. Williams rises to an atypical challenge here as a futuristic Everyman, relying, perhaps for the first time, on his considerable iconic value to make the point that becoming human means becoming more like Robin Williams. Nothing wrong with that. --Tom Keogh

Andrew Martin (Williams) is a household android whose intended function is thrown for a loop when he begins to feel genuine human emotions. Over the next two centuries the resulting dealings with his adopted family and new acquaintances provide the film with ample opportunities to raise important questions about individual human existence, as Andrew seeks to become human. Based on the Isaac Asimov story of the same name.
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CastSam Neill, Robin Williams, Embeth Davidtz, Kiersten Warren, Oliver Platt, Lynne Thigpen
DirectorChris Columbus
Release Date:  1999
MPAA Rating:  PG
DVD Release Date:  Buena Vista Home Entertainment (May 06, 2003)
Runtime:  2hr 11min
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More Bicentennial Man reviews
review by . February 19, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
I am a big fan of Isaac Asimov and this story is one of my favorites! Williams is excellent as a robot who wants to be accepted by society as a person. Oliver Platt steals the movie as a robotics expert who continually "improves" Williams, making him more human each time.Our heart goes out to Williams who continually argues his position in court, hoping to be legally declared a man!
review by . January 10, 2000
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Robin Williams, humorous look at the future     Cons: Message Movie, overly sentimental     Robin Williams is at a point in his career that he can be very choosy about the roles he accepts. It seems that all of his movies now are "message movies" i.e. a movie that gives the audience a hidden meaning.      Bicentennial Man was not at all what I expected. In fact I hadn't wanted to see it at all as a robot movie didn't appeal …
review by . December 26, 1999
Pros: cute, nice cinematography of S.F.     Cons: too long, cheesy, predictable     Leaving the theater, my 14-year-old brother commented, "I could have written that screenplay!" I laughed, but I have to agree with him. This movie was so sentimental, cheesy, and predictable that I had to laugh at times. I am not usually a movie cynic: I cry at movies like "Stepmom," but this movie just didn't cut it. The most annoying thing was the format. …
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