Bicentennial Man

USA 1999

Reviewed by Mike Higgins


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

The US, the present. Richard Martin and his young family acquire an NDR 114 domestic android (nicknamed Andrew) which quickly exhibits an uncannily human personality. As the years pass, Andrew cultivates his 'humanity' under the tutelage of Richard and his youngest daughter, the by-now adult 'Little Miss'. Andrew then requests and is reluctantly granted his freedom by Richard. Andrew comes across Rupert Burns, the son of the man who designed him, and funds Burns to complete his transformation, physiologically at least, into a human being.

He returns to Little Miss and, following her death from old age, falls in love with and proposes to her granddaughter Portia. However, the World Congress states Andrew's effective immortality prevents Congress from recognising him as a human being so his marriage attempt is rejected. Burns enables Andrew to age and die. Years later, he and Portia die together as the World Congress finally declares Andrew 'human'.


In a film which shows the passage of 200 years with such blandness, perhaps it's understandable director Chris Columbus turns a blind eye to the history of cinema - a mere century, after all. Almost wilfully, Columbus ignores the long film heritage of the mechanical man - and the fundamental issues raised by that walking, talking oxymoron - in this risibly uninspired adaptation of Isaac Asimov's and Robert Silverberg's writings. So Andrew the android (aka NDR 114) has none of the disarming peevishness of Star Wars' C-3PO nor any of the simple pathos of the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Instead his appeal rests largely on the fact that he's a positronic analogue of Robin Williams. That stocky frame, those restless eyebrows, the characteristic simper set in a metallic rictus - Andrew's very specific anthropomorphism even extends to a faltering approximation of the star's trademark manic wisecracking.

Irritating with the cloying sentiment Williams' presence has long guaranteed in any film of his, Columbus is unable even to draw out the dramatic or intellectual implications of Andrew's personal development. One need look no further than Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the replicants of Blade Runner, or even RoboCop to see the dramatic potential of Frankensteinian machines exercising apparent human consciousness. Instead Columbus refers mainly to his own egregious body of work - after all, comparable issues of unasked-for freedom crop up in his earlier Home Alone films - so Andrew ends up being a techno version of a small boy left to his own mischievous devices in a big house.

As it is, Andrew's growth into a human being is brought about by the most objectionably conservative means: a series of fireside chats with the paternalistic Richard Martin, the love of a good woman and a lot of plastic surgery, all laced together with clumsy biblical overtones (he is expelled from the Edenic Martin household and makes a prodigal's return decades later). A similar lack of imagination is at work in the film's woefully anachronistic mise en scène. Dismayingly, the Martins inhabit an insipid future-world reminiscent more of post-war science expo films than any of the compellingly grubby dystopias envisaged by science-fiction cinema over the last 25 years.

Were there some consistency to this banal vision of the near future, Bicentennial Man might hope to have conveyed some of its literary sources' epic time scales. But the film swiftly settles into an unevenly paced, episodic structure, unsure whether it's a family saga, a sci-fi drama or a children's comedy. The interminable passage of succeeding generations of the Martin family is punctuated only by several protracted death-bed scenes. Indeed, the one distinguishing feature in this narrative desert - Little Miss' unrequited love for Andrew and his eventual marriage to her granddaughter - leaves a nasty taste in the mouth precisely because we're asked to consider as straightforwardly romantic a cross-generational, quasi-incestuous relationship between a 150-year-old robot and a young woman. It makes you imagine what Bicentennial Man could have been like in the hands of David Cronenberg.


Chris Columbus
Wolfgang Petersen
Gail Katz
Neal Miller
Laurence Mark
Chris Columbus
Mark Radcliffe
Michael Barnathan
Nicholas Kazan
Based on the short story by Isaac Asimov and the novel The Positronic Man by
Isaac Asimov
Robert Silverberg
Director of Photography
Phil Meheux
Edited by
Neil Travis
Production Designer
Norman Reynolds
Music/Music Conductor
James Horner
©Touchstone Pictures and Columbia Pictures
Production Companies
Touchstone Pictures and Columbia Pictures present a 1492 Pictures production in association with Laurence Marks Productions and Radiant Productions
Executive Producer
Dan Kolsrud
Associate Producer
Paula DuPré Pesmen
Production Co-ordinator
Katie Gilbert
Unit Production Manager
Geoffrey D. Hansen
Location Managers
Rory Enke
Ralph Coleman
Assistant Directors
David Sardi
Maggie Murphy
Jennifer Giancola
2nd Unit:
L. Dean Jones Jr
Michael Kitchens
Script Supervisor
Carol DePasquale
Janet Hirshenson
Jane Jenkins
ADR Voice:
Barbara Harris
2nd Unit Director of Photography
Brian Sullivan
Camera Operators
Kim Marks
Brian Sullivan
Steadicam Operator
Kirk Gardner
Visual Effects Supervisor
James E. Price
Visual Effects
Dream Quest Images
Visual Effects Producer:
Erika Wangberg Burton
Digital Producer:
Lisa Goldberg
Digital Effects Supervisor:
Dan DeLeeuw
Digital Compositing Supervisor:
David Lauer
Lead TD:
Adolph Lusinsky
3D Matte Painters:
Eric Hanson
John Huikku
Mark Lefitz
Lead Lighters/Texture Painters:
Colin Eckart
Mark Siegel
Texture Painters:
Travis Price
Christine Serino
Shader Development/TD:
Chu M. Tang
Flocker Development/TD:
Paul Van Camp
Lead Modeller:
Thanh (John) Nguyen
Digital Modellers:
Marty Havran
Ardie Johnson
David B. Mooy
Effects Animator:
Francis P. Liu
Animator/Lead Match Mover:
Merrick Rustia
Match Movers:
Jon Aghassian
Louis Flores
Lead Compositor:
Rory Hinnen
Brian Adams
Daniel J. Miller
Michael F. Miller
Kim O'Donnell
Amy Pfaffinger
Marc J. Scott
Inferno Artist:
Jeff Olm
2D Graphics Designer:
R. Christopher Biggs
Digital Matte Painter:
Craig Mullins
Software Development:
Dan Ruderman
Bruce Tartaglia
Production Co-ordinator:
Rachel Fondiller
Digital Co-ordinator:
Edward P. Busch III
Art Director:
Michael Meaker
Conceptual Artist:
Matt Suzuki
Visual Effects Editor:
Daniel Arkin
Stage Photography Supervisor:
Scott Beattie
Visual Effects Director of Photography:
Scott Campbell
Motion Control Programmers:
Kevin Fitzgerald
Joe Stevenson
Special Effects Co-ordinator:
John Gray
Special Effects Lead:
John Downey
Model Shop Supervisor:
Fredric Meininger
Project Supervisor:
Carlyle Livingston
Model Designer/Builders:
Jim Key
Niels Nielsen
Lead Model Builder:
Ray Moore
Model Shop Co-ordinators:
Guadalupe Cabrera
Warren Farina
Pre-visualization Artists:
Bob Arvin
Michael Jackson
Additional Matte Paintings
Illusion Arts
Syd Dutton
Bill Taylor
Matte Artist:
Rocco Gioffre
Robotic Effects
Steve Johnson's XFX Inc
Production Manager:
Sean Taylor
Project/Set Supervisor:
Chris Nelson
Project Supervisor:
Bob Newton
Art Director:
Lennie MacDonald
Carlos Huante
Constantine Sekeris
Sculpting Supervisor:
José Fernandez
Jeff Buccacio
Jim Kagel
Hiroshi Katagiri
Horacio Fernandez
John Weldy
Lead Painter:
Tom Killeen
Paint Designer:
Mark Killingsworth
Animatronic Department Supervisor:
Eric Fiedler
Animatronic Engineers:
Brian Cox
Mike Elizalde
Hiroshi 'Kan' Ikeuchi
Luke Khanlian
Jim Kundig
Christian Ristow
Mike Scanlon
Lead Acrylic Technician:
Rob Hinderstein
Lead Effect Technician:
Dan Rebert
Effect Technician:
Bernie Eichholz
Fabrication Department Supervisor:
Bill Bryan
Lead Fabricators:
Vince Verdi
Fred Cervantes
Mold Department Supervisor:
Matt Singer
John R. McConnell
Mechanical/Electronics Effects
Gustavo Ferreyra
Cad Designer
Peter Maguire
Shop Foreman
Jesse Thomas II
Mechanist Foreman
Joseph 'Chris' Allen
Electronics Foreman
Christian T. Andrews
Mechanical Foreman
Michael F. Steffe
Special Effects Co-ordinator
John McLeod
Special Effects Foreman
Frank Tarantino
Nicolas de Toth
Art Directors
Mark Mansbridge
William Hiney
Bruton E. Jones Jr
Set Designers
William A. Taliaferro
Geoff Hubbard
Darrell L. Wight
James E. Tocci
Set Decorator
Anne Kuljian
Costume Designer
Joseph G. Aulisi
Costume Supervisor
Elaine Maser
Key Make-up
Brad Wilder
2nd Make-up
Karen Blynder
Old Age Make-up Effects Design/Application
Greg Cannom
Old Age Make-up Effects Creation
Keith Vanderlaan's Captive Audiences Productions, Inc
Prosthetics Make-up Supervisor:
Brian Sipe
Production Supervisor:
Jennifer Teves
Production Co-ordinator:
Jill Fischer
Miles Teves
Glen Hanz
Moto Hata
Steve Wang
Jacobien van der Meer
Joel Harlow
Effects Technicians:
Frank Diettinger
Chris Gallaher
Silicone Effects Technician:
Mark Nieman
Effects Technicians:
Sam Sainz
Bryan Smith
Mold Department Supervisor:
Art Pimental
Silicone Effects Technician:
Richard Starke
Operations Manager:
Harvey Lowry
Effects Technicians:
Shea Clayton
Steve Stewart
Mike Peterson
Brett Moore
Michael Harper
Daniel Yeager
Old Age Make-up
Wes Wofford
Key Hair
Yolanda Toussieng
Lee Ann Brittenham
Main Titles Design
Imaginary Forces
Pacific Title/Mirage

Featured Piano
Ralph Grierson
J.A.C. Redford
James Horner
On-camera Music Arrangers/Orchestrations
Marshall Bowen
Harvey Cohen
Executive in Charge of Music, Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group
Kathy Nelson
Supervising Music Editor
Jim Henrikson
Music Editors
Joseph E. Rand
Katherine Quittner
Music Recordist/Mixer
Simon Rhodes
Additional Music Recording
David Marquette
On-camera Music Recordist/Mixer
Rick Norman
"Then You Look at Me" music by James Horner, Will Jennings, performed by Celine Dion; "The Washington Post" performed by University of Michigan Marching Band; "Mesicku na nebi hlubokóm" ("Rusalka's Song to the Moon)" from "Rusalka" music by Antonín Dvorák, words by Jaroslav Kvapil, performed by Lucia Popp; "I Found a Million Dollar Baby (In a Five and Ten Cent Store)" by Harry Warren, Billy Rose, Mort Dixon, performed by Bing Crosby; "Dolly" by Gabriel Fauré; "Muskrat Ramble" by Edward Ory, Ray Gilbert; "Respect" by Otis Redding, performed by Aretha Franklin; "(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone" by Aretha Franklin, Ted White, performed by Aretha Franklin; "Petite Suite" by Claude Debussy; "If I Only Had a Heart" by Harold Arlen, E.Y. Harburg; "Embraceable You" by George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin; "The Very Thought of You" by Ray Noble; "The Hunt Quartet Suite No. 1" - Second movement "Menuetto" by Joseph Haydn
Sound Design
Randy Thom
Sound Mixer
Nelson Stoll
Re-recording Mixers
Gary Summers
Randy Thom
Supervising Sound Editor
Robert Shoup
Dialogue Editors
Jonathan Null
Marshall Winn
Sound Effects Editors
David Hughes
Stephen Kearney
Supervising Editor:
Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
Dennie Thorpe
Jana Vance
Tony Eckert
Sandina Lena Bailo-Lape
Stunt Co-ordinator
Mike Mitchell
Animal Trainer
All Star Animals
Robin Williams
Sam Neill
Embeth Davidtz
Little Miss/Portia
Oliver Platt
Rupert Burns
Wendy Crewson
Hallie Kate Eisenberg
Little Miss, 7 years old
Stephen Root
Dennis Mansky
Lynne Thigpen
female president
Bradley Whitford
Kiersten Warren
Galatea robotic/human
John Michael Higgins
Bill Feingold
George D. Wallace
male president
Lindze Letherman
Miss, 9 years old
Angela Landis
Igor Hiller
Lloyd, 10 years old
Joe Bellan
Brett Wagner
robot delivery men
Scott Waugh
motorcycle punk
Quinn Smith
Kristy Connelly
Jay Johnston
Ples Griffin
Zimbabwe representative
Marcia Pizzo
Lloyd's wife
Paula DuPré Pesmen
Feingold's assistant
Clarke Devereux
Bruce Kenneth Wagner
engagement party guest
Paula West
Kevin 'Tiny' Ancell
Richard Cross
restoration workers
Adam Bryant
humanoid head
Eric Fiedler
Billy Bryan
Christopher Nelson
Jim Kundig
Terry Sandin
Mike Elizalde
Mark Garbarino
Christian Ristow
Lennie MacDonald
Dan Rebert
Bernhard Eichholz
Evan Brainard
Benny Buettner
Kamela Portugues
Michael F. Steffe
Mark J. Walas
Columbia Tristar Films (UK)
11,788 feet
130 minutes 59 seconds
Dolby digital/Digital DTS sound/SDDS
In Colour
Prints by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011