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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

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Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

The last time director Chris Columbus teamed with Robin Willliams they came up with Mrs. Doubtfire but, if you're expecting this to be a slapstick kids' flick, think again. Adapted from a short story by Isaac Asimov, it chronicles the life of a NDR-114 robot who begins as a household appliance in 2005, created "to perform menial tasks: cooking, cleaning, making household repairs, playing with or supervising children." Dubbed Andrew by the youngest of the family's children (deep-dimpled Hallie Kate Eisenberg) who cannot pronounce "android," he soon begins to show creativity, curiosity, and compassion, confounding his manufacturer and launching a 200-year quest to discover his humanity. Nicholas Kazan's thoughtful screenplay cleverly explores the technology of artificial intelligence as it integrates with human behavior but, since it follows a family for several generations with only Andrew as a connective, it involves too many characters, several with literary-allusion names like Galatea and Portia. Plus, there's a constant awareness that underneath the plastic prosthesis, there's comical Robin Williams, desperately itching to emerge. Sam Neill scores as Andrew's original owner, as does Oliver Platt as a bio-tech designer who becomes Andrew's friend. It's interesting that, just like Woody in Toy Story 2, Andrew makes a choice between pristine immortality and the inexplicable vagaries of humanity but, unlike that magical fantasy, children under 10 will quickly be bored or depressed by the insipid depth of this 2-hour, 13-minute saga. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Bicentennial Man powers up to a surprisingly serious, existential 7, as a poignant parable of what it means to be human.

Copyright 2000 Susan Granger

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