Bil’s rating (out of 5): B
USA/Germany, 1999. 1492 Pictures, Columbia Pictures Corporation, Laurence Mark Productions, Radiant Productions, Touchstone Pictures. Screenplay by Nicholas Kazan, based on the short story The Bicentennial Man by Isaac Asimov, and the novel The Positronic Man by Isaac Asimov, Robert Silverberg. Cinematography by Phil Meheux. Produced by Michael Barnathan, Chris Columbus, Gail Katz, Laurence Mark, Neal Miller, Wolfgang Petersen, Mark Radcliffe. Music by James Horner. Production Design by Norman Reynolds. Costume Design by Joseph G. Aulisi. Film Editing by Nicolas De Toth, Neil Travis.
A futuristic family headed up by Sam Neill and Wendy Crewson buy a robotic domestic servant (Robin Williams) who comes to live in their house and perform all their chores. When the robot shows signs of gifted intellect, Neill orders upgrades to be done on him until the android decides to begin a quest on his own to become exactly like a human being.
Falling in love with his employer’s daughter (Embeth Davidtz), and later her granddaughter (Davidtz again), Williams traverses two centuries in an attempt to find his humanity, even when it means deciding to become finite and grow old and die.
A common conceit in science-fiction dictates that all other lifeforms want nothing more than to be exactly like us, and this one never manages to put across the theory with much conviction beyond emotional manipulation and cheesy romance.
By the time the second Davidtz falls in love with Williams and decides she wants to commit to him, children will be delighted but adults will be creeped out that a woman wants to marry a vibrator with a sense of humour.
The attention paid to making the film marketable to the “family set” leaves it bereft of much emotional conflict, making it nothing more than a shallow version of the later A.I. with some excellent visual and makeup effects.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Makeup