Flashy but hollow,
This review is from: Bicentennial Man (DVD)Bicentennial Man, the latest vehicle for Robin Williams, follows the 200-year odyssey of android Andrew Martin, as he struggles to become human and seek acceptance as one.
Not unlike the emotional struggle faced by Star Trek: The Next Generation's Mr. Data, Andrew is faced with fearful humans who refuse to see his impassioned side, and delight in labelling him as a subordinate "it". Thus, the film briefly touches on the theme of racial intolerance, and the age-old question of what makes a man a man. Andrew is also faced with learning about loss, as the characters he serves all grow old and eventually die.
Taking place as it does over two centuries, the story tries hard to match the sweeping grandeur of such films as Forrest Gump and Gone with the Wind, but advances at such sudden intervals that the narrative becomes choppy. This will undoubtedly cause many children to become confused, with the characters pictured at so many progressive periods in their lives.
But a children's picture this is not. In fact, Bicentennial Man is too heavy-handed for children, with not too subtle discussions of sperm function and sexual intercourse. Some viewers may also be upset with its pro-euthanasia stance. Further, there are not one, but four death-bed scenes, guaranteed to tug at one's heartstrings. Terms of Endearment from a robot's point of view?
The score by James Horner, which at times is reminiscent of his Oscar-winning Titanic theme, swells at all the moments of poignancy, but one can only take so many ups and downs in two hours.
Perhaps to lessen the film's fantasy concept and offer viewers something to relate to, a few generational conflicts are thrown in, but these seem misplaced surrounded by so much wonder. Certainly, the film presents a very Utopian vision of the future, and is visually quite attractive. From sumptuous sets to imposing matte paintings of cityscapes and futuristic (but not over-done) clothing, there is surprisingly minimal gadgetry.
But why is that Hollywood make-up artists still have such a long way to go in creating convincing old-age effects?
Those expecting Robin Williams' usual buffoonery and in-your-face wisecracks will be disappointed, as he instead offers a gentle and understated portrayal of a misfit trying to belong. Bicentennial Man also features Sam Neill, in his usual unobtrusive role, Pepsi-kid Halle Eisenberg as "Little Miss", and a sparkling performance by Ambeth Davidtz as both the grown-up Little Miss and her own granddaughter.
Bicentennial Man is certainly a pleasant diversion from an audience member's own personal struggle, but will fail to generate much moral discussion. Despite his mental and physical transformation from machine to pseudo-man, Andrew can never develop a soul. Consequently, neither can the film itself, which beats with a prosthetic heart. Rating: 6 out of 10.