Bicentennial Man

*1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Bicentennial Man
""

Why does Robin Williams have to drown in tears every time he appears on screen? Even dressed in aluminium, sentimentality oozes through his vocal chords. The surgeon general should issue a warning.

Bicentennial Man is so dull your mind goes numb. It feels about three days long, with no tension to ease the flow of platitudes, as robot NDR-114 attempts to become human and marry the woman it loves. Of course, machines don't have emotions, which is why NDR-114 is unique. There is a lot of talk about this. "A robot is not a person," Sir (Sam Neill) tells his kids. "He is a form of property." The film spends forever to disprove this and it doesn't take a genius to pick up the allusions to slavery.

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The intellectual content would not challenge an amoeba. As a fable, it ranks beneath Little Jack Horner. The location is Sci Fi City, where cars fly and spoilt little girls are still spoilt. Robots have become household appliances. They do what they are told, need very little maintanence and don't eat. Also, they last centuries without a service.

NDR-114 behaves like Jeeves, sans wit. It thinks for itself, has carpentry skills and goes all gooey when discussing "family". Things change when it bumps into Rupert Burns (Oliver Platt), a maverick scientist specialising in robotic reconstruction. NDR-114 uses Rupert's skills to humanise itself and give Robin Williams a chance to stretch his face.

The message is simple. Being human is mortal. Being robotic is immortal. Humans feel. Robots don't. Humans laugh, cry, fall in love. Robots take the garbage out and never complain when shut in a cupboard all weekend. Humans have sex. Robots have chores. End of message.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Bicentennial Man packshot
A robot strives to be human.
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