Bicentennial Man

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Stars:  Robin Williams, Sam Neill, Oliver Platt

True love and the search for identity spans many generations and crosses the species barrier in this lovely but overly long Robin Williams vehicle.

Based on the short story by Isaac Asimov, Williams plays Andrew, a household robotics model, created by Northam Robotics, to clean, cook and tend to the children, in other words make life easier for the busy, bustling households in this futuristic tale. But Andrew is an anomoly. He’s a thinker and a feeler who learns very quickly. He captures the imagination of his owner “Sir” (Sam Neill) who decides to teach Andrew the ways of humans and the craft of clock-making. Andrew, although shiny and quite robotic looking, is taking on the facets of humanness, to the joy of some and the resentment of others.

Northam Robotics wants him back, thinking Andrew will go berserk someday and they’ll be liable. But Sir thinks Andrew is a marvel. Also, “Little Miss”, the youngest daughter in the household has come to rely on Andrew as her truest friend.

Years pass, people die and Andrew lives on. It’s disheartening to watch as Andrew struggles with his humanity and lack of it at the same time. But Andrew has now evolved into a complex individual as that of any human and now he wants his freedom. Sir, who feels that he has treated Andrew extraordinarily well, becomes angered and orders him from the household. It’s not quite the freedom that Andrew had in mind, but ever the dutiful servant, he goes.

More years pass and Andrew still grows, although he has become a rather lonely individual. After the death of Sir, Andrew goes on a multi-year quest to find other robots who might have also been anomolies such as himself.

In San Francisco, he comes upon Rupert Burns (Oliver Platt), a scientist who replicates human appendages. They develop an alliance and it isn’t too long before Andrew gets to look like a human being, finally, and now we’ve got Robin Williams in the flesh (also, finally). More years pass; Little Miss has a fetching granddaughter named Portia (Embeth Davidtz) who looks remarkably like Little Miss in her prime and Andrew is on his way to experiencing true love.

The concept of searching for one’s identify is one we can all identify with. Andrew struggles to find his place in the family and in the world in which he has been forced to live. But in Andrew’s case, the search is a 200-year old trek because it takes that long for him to realize his true self. That, and to discover the meaning of family and of love.

Lotta says:
It’s truly a lovely concept and a lovely tale. And as usual, Robin Williams handles it with great aplomb. Humor and sweetness abound from the beginning to its touching ending. The major problem with the film is that it takes so long to get to the part where Andrew becomes Williams in the flesh. It’s not that Andrew the robot is boring, it’s just we see over and over again what’s going on with Andrew – it’s as if they wanted to keep dragging out that sweetness, then again, it does span 200 years and that’s quite an undertaking. So, to be fair, I’ll just say it’s a little top heavy. But I enjoyed it!