Robin Williams as the robot Andrew in Bicentennial Man, delivers one of his best ever roles. And that is saying something since Robin Williams has tucked a lot of brilliant performances under his thespian belt. Though this film has been bashed by critics, it has been loved by most mammals who are at least tepidly human. But opinions are like critics. Every movie has one. These professionals are supposed to be the crème de la crème of the high-brow breed and yet many repeatedly overlook nuggets at the end of their noses. I get sorely put out. It’s like they’re so busy looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, they miss the beauty of the rainbow.
Here’s some reviews from Rotten Tomatoes:
- Bicentennial Man is ruined by a bad script and ends up being dull and mawkish. (I looked up “mawkish”. It means overly sentimental, maudlin, syrupy sweet).
- .It’s one thing to ask an audience to love a mechanical man, but quite another to love a mechanical performance.
- If a robot spends enough time around humans, can he learn to become one of them?
I’ve seen too many good and great movies get kicked off the marquees because of critics who . . . well . . . who knows WHERE their heads were. How many times have we seen films we’ve never heard of nominated for awards, or seen award-winning films that are excruciatingly boring, while films like Waterworld and The Thirteenth Warrior were slammed before very many people even had a chance to see them. Thus causing these films to come close to being stillborn.. With all due respect to these late greats, over the years I have repeatedly turned thumbs down on the reviews of the thumb critics — the two who hitchhiked their way across the big screen galaxy.
How many times did we see Joaquin Phoenix get the nix on awards that should have been his, i. e. “Gladiator” and “Walk the Line”. Okay. True story. While waiting for my husband to try on a suit in a men’s store, the attendant and I began talking about movies. He was a very well-dressed, courteous young man. I passingly mentioned Joaquin Phoenix and Walk the Line in the same breath, and from the mouth of this polite, fashionable young clerk came this explosion – “HE WAS ROBBED!!!” Taken aback, I readily agreed, though a little more quietly. I had touched a nerve.
Now. Back to the subject of Bicentennial Man, 1999, directed by Chris Columbus and co-produced by Touchstone Pictures and Columbia Pictures. It is ABOUT what constitutes a human being. It’s about humanity. It’s a statement about society in general and the fear we have of those who are different. That being the case, of COURSE emotions must come into play. They must be probed. Examined under a microscope. Put on center stage. Our very personal human emotions are looked at and examined by this mechanical being who is searching for what it means to be human, which helps us examine our own selves in High Def, if you will. The Star Trek character Data did that for us. And he was one of the most beloved of the Star Trek cast.
Andrew is not a piece of animated tin taught to do tricks. Andrew, the robot, is truly a different being. In all the world there was not another like him. Through some unknown glitch in his positronic brain (Asimov’s term), his circuits ran with wonder and curiosity. His dictionary vocabulary spit out phrases in an unconventional order (for a robot), that touched something inside Sir Gerald Martin (Sam Neill) his owner. It was as if the oh-so-proper and by-the-book entrepreneur, husband, and father, got a little jump-start of life energy from the “tin man”. Andrew was just the antidote for jaded humanity.
In 132 minutes of running time, Bicentennial Man explores and probes many of the world’s ills, including cruelty, prejudice, slavery, as well as love, loyalty, and devotion. That the film is able to do all this with humor, candor, and insight, seems entirely due to actors and script writers who drew upon life experience, and breathed it into their actions and pens. That Robin Williams was able to “evolve” — with a little help from his friends — from robot to human, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally, was such a wonder. It kept me spellbound.
Bicentennial Man is not just a movie about robots. It’s about relationships. It’s about us. And as it takes us on our own journey of life, we laugh and we cry as we think and absorb. Just another movie about robots? I really don’t think so.