I stumbled across Bicentennial Man, a particularly odd piece of cinematic history from 1999, as I was browsing Netflix for something vaguely entertaining to watch during an uneventful Sunday evening. Of course, just like most children raised in the 90s, I had heard of the film, starring Robin Williams, but I had never actually seen it. And although I had some preconceptions about what it might be like, it was certainly not what I had expected.
Essentially the film, directed by Chris Columbus, is a retelling of that classic Pinocchio tale, in which something that is designed by human beings to imitate humans eventually wishes to become a real human itself.
Something about this story seems to strike a chord with audiences again and again, no matter how often it is repackaged and reused. Case in point, only two years after the release of Bicentennial Man, AI: Artificial Intelligence was released, despite AI telling a similar tale of an android going on a long and arduous journey to become a real boy.
Anyway, Bicentennial Man takes the popular story of a wooden puppet, who longs to be human, and stretches it to breaking point. It’s not a bad film, but instead of focussing on that central plot point and leading the main character on a path to achieve one goal, it attempts too much and has Andrew, the android reaching to achieve about 15 seemingly insurmountable goals.
The director obviously was hoping to inject some humour into the proceedings when he cast Robin Williams as Andrew, the android, but the film doesn’t seem to know whether it wants to be a romance, comedy or a solemn-faced drama.