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Bicentennial Man

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: Hallie Kate Eisenberg, Lindze Letherman, Sam Neill, Oliver Platt, Allan Rich, Scott Waugh, Wendy Crewson

Review by MrBrown
3 stars out of 4

The trailer for Chris Columbus' adaptation of Isaac Asimov's short story and novel _The_Positronic_Man_ makes this Robin Williams vehicle look like a futuristic sequel to _Patch_Adams_--in short, a ghastly piece of shameless audience manipulation. The sentiment is laid on as thick as molasses as the trailer shows how a robot named Andrew (Williams) is adopted by a family and proves to be "special"--unlike any other android, he appears to actually bear the qualities of emotion and creativity. His human characteristics eventually feed into a desire to become human, a dream that gradually comes true over the course of 200 years (hence the title). The trailer comes to a climax as Williams, no longer made of metal and bearing a flesh-and-blood appearance, asks comely co-star Embeth Davidtz to kiss him.

Watching the film itself, I saw that the trailer was accurate in conveying one thing: _Bicentennial_Man_ is, without a doubt, a manipulative picture. But director Chris Columbus, schmaltzmeister that he is, makes no bones about it--he wants to move you. The surprise then came in how I was touched (though not quite moved) by this gentle, likable centuries-spanning fable. While Williams goes through his earnest warm-fuzzy motions as the lead (the only really distinctive thing about his work here is how he wears a head-to-toe metal suit for much of the picture), the standout work--and that which goes a long way for one's involvement in the picture--belongs to Embeth Davidtz, who has a dual role as Amanda, a.k.a. "Little Miss," the youngest daughter in the family that "adopts" Andrew; and Portia, her granddaughter. When Davidtz is recycled, so does screenwriter Nicholas Kazan recycle the contrived plot wrinkle of her character being betrothed to another. But with a proven buttons-pusher such as Columbus at the helm, it's easy to forgive uninspired plot mechanics, for the undeniable emotional pull compensates.

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