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Bicentennial Man

review by Zach B.

 

Rated PG

Starring Robin Williams, Embeth Davitz, Sam Neil and Oliver Platt

Written by Nicholas Kazan, based on the short story by Isaac Asimov and the novel "The Posttronic Man" by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg

Directed by Chris Columbus

 

Retail Price: 32.99

Features: Theatrical Trailer, Trailer for "Music of the Heart", Production Featurette

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital (English), Dolby Surround (French), English Captions, Chapter Search

 

 

Way back in 1993, Chris Columbus and Robin Williams struck major box office gold with a smash hit, award winning comedy entitled "Mrs. Doubtfire". Since then, Columbus has been directing successful comedies like "Nine Months" and Williams won an Academy Award®, while making some schlocky faire, such as "Patch Adams" and "Jakob The Liar".

However, the mega Disney empire, thinking they could earn some major revenues for the 1999 holiday season by having the two team up again, give us Bicentennial Man, a movie that simply has no idea what it wants to be or has no clue what is going for it. The movie was critically panned when it was released, and in fact, you may have heard that filming almost did not even take place due to the incredibly high budget (Columbia Pictures then stepped in to co-finance). While the overdone sets and costumes did remind me of "Batman and Robin", I actually found this movie not as bad as it was made out to be (and no, I was not intoxicated upon viewing the film). It's not the greatest film ever, but I do personally think it was bashed a little too much.

This little over two hour "masterpiece" (yes, a little sarcasm there) begins in the year 2005. It seems that technology is taking over the world, and in homes everywhere people are buying robots to cook, to clean, and do a good majority of busy work (lazy humans!). However, one particular family (who don't have last name, and their first names are incredibly sketchy) purchases a robot, only to find that he shows an array human characteristics and feelings. This robot is known as Andrew (Williams), after the young daughter of the family mispronounces "android" as "Andrew". As time progresses, Andrew becomes very close to the family, falls in love with the young daughter, and soon enough, wants to become human. So he begins a quest... to become a normal human being. Yet over the two centuries, Andrew faces a number of obstacles and challenges to achieve the goal of "true humanity". And from the preview, you see that he is "upgraded" to have physical looks of a human.

I'm sorry I could not describe the plot in better detail, but I do not want to wish to ruin the ending, and there is simply too much of the plot to cover. Bicentennial Man has too much going for it and is trying to cram it all in during the 131 minute run time. What's worse, is that movie is advertised as one of those feel good, heartwarming comedies for the whole family to enjoy and treasure, but deep down, it's truly a depressing drama (especially the climax!). The performances actually brought some depth to this film (Williams was his usual self, but I found Oliver Platt and Sam Neill to be quite good), but Columbus' direction is incredibly sloppy. He's trying to tug at your heartstrings, while making you enjoy the whole story at the same time. The effects are pretty nice, but the costumes and sets do sometimes distract you away from the film.

Despite the flaws, Bicentennial Man is actually a decent film. Sure, it's not that really that funny, and you're more than likely to feel bad after seeing it then feel good, and the the script could use some major balancing. But it's enjoyable to an extent, and I feel that critics were a bit harsh, all because of the recent films Robin Williams has done.

 

It seems that Disney is finally jumping on the anamorphic bandwagon, and Bicentennial Man is a perfect example of how good these Disney anamorphic transfers are. Colors are bold and vibrant, and detail is very well crisp, you can really take in what this film has to offer. I did not notice any bleeding, but there is some slight pixelation toward the start of the film. There are also some artifacts now and then, but they are pretty rare and do not distract from viewing at all.

 

Bicentennial Man is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and it does sound pretty nice. I like to call the audio "half and half". The movie is dialogue driven, but it does boast some very nice effects, such as futuristic cars flying, ocean waves crashing and certain electronic sounds, like an automatic futuristic door. They all sounded nice, and pretty contained. I found the .1 LFE to be pretty minimal, but when used, I found it to be pretty useful. James Horner's score fits very nicely into this when played, and sort of enhances everything a little. The sound mix is not as creative as it could have been, but I found it to be fine for the movie. A French language track is included as well.

 

Bicentennial Man's original theatrical trailer is included in full frame, with 5 channel sound. The sound mix is decent, and the trailer transfer, though in full frame, looks pretty good. This trailer does give a lot of the good parts to the film away, and shows a good amount of what happens, so if you like to be surprised, you have been warned.

The only "forced trailer" this time around is for "Music of the Heart", and thankfully, it's just one trailer, not several.

Also, an eight minute Production Featurette is included. This is all marketing fluff, and features clips from the trailer and has interviews with the actors and Chris Columbus, and their thoughts on the movie and how it relates to life in general. It's not really all that engaging.

On a side note, the menus have a lot of flair to them. They have this very industrious and futuristic style to them, which I think are eye candy. It's a shame they are not interactive, but are nice to look at.

 

Bicentennial Man is a movie that was panned a little too much upon it's original release, and I found it to be pretty entertaining. The acting gives the movie an extra level, but Columbus' direction is off, and the script needs a little work. The movie is not the greatest, but certainly not the worst either, and is overall pretty depressing. However, with a decent sound mix and a nice transfer, if you have never seen Bicentennial Man and had a slight interest in it, be sure to check it out. I would have liked to see some more extras, but its a standard Disney release.

 

(3/5, NOT included in final score)

(4/5)

(3.5/5)

(1/5)

(3/5, NOT an average)

 

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