Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Bicentennial Man

MPAA Rating: PG for language and some sexual content.

Reviewed by: Timothy Blaisdell

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults and Teens
Sci-Fi Drama
2 hr. 11 min.
Year of Release:
Relevant Issues
Bicentennial Man
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Starring: Robin Williams, Sam Neill, Embeth Davidtz, Wendy Crewson, Oliver Platt | Director: Chris Columbus | Producers: Wolfgang Petersen, Gail Katz, Laurence Mark | Distributed by: Touchstone Pictures

Critics don’t seem to like “Bicentennial Man”, and I’m really not sure why. Many people are saying it’s a rip-off of Lt. Commander Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” or the film “Short Circuit”. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at such ignorance. That’s like picking up a copy of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and saying it’s a rip-off of the latest romance film you happened to have seen! “Bicentennial Man” is a science fiction classic. When first published, it was unique and the theme of what it means to be a human being was unusual and imaginative. It sparked the imagination of many, and through the years science fiction writers (and movie makers) have borrowed its ideas over and over again.

Robot Andrew (Robin Williams) and Robot Galatea (Kiersten Connelly) watch Rupert Burns (Oliver Platt) test his external modifications.

The basic plot (without giving away too much) is that, in the near future, a wealthy family purchases a robotic servant—a household appliance built for doing household chores and such. The serial number of the device begins with the letters NDR, and thus the name “Andrew” is given to it by the youngest member of the household. Because of a fault in this particular robot’s “positronic brain” (a term that Asimov invented, not the creators of “Star Trek’s” Commander Data), Andrew begins doing things he was not programmed for. He develops the ability to create beautiful (and valuable) art and woodworking talents. He exhibits feelings and a desire to learn and grow. As Andrew grows in awareness, he begins to realize that he will never be accepted as an equal in the world of humans as long as he looks like a machine.

Gradually, as technology advances over 200 years, Andrew at first purchases, and later invents for himself upgrades and adaptations for his body that make him more human looking, but regardless of what he does, the humans he cares for the most continue to think of him as a machine, and therefore are incapable of returning love and affection to him.

This film is all about Andrew’s long quest to find out what it means to be a “man”. It follows the book almost perfectly, with a few exceptions thrown in to make use of Robin Williams comedic talents (however, the director thankfully did not let Williams loose, and the comedic elements are nicely done). I enjoyed it a lot.

“Bicentennial Man” has very little to object to in the way of sex or violence. There is one scene where Andrew is learning to express strong emotion in his speech, and is repeatedly told to use the word “sh--”. Also, toward the end of the film (warning! minor spoilers ahead!) Andrew attempts to get permission from the government to marry a woman. The government refuses to recognize the marriage, but Andrew and the woman apparently move in together anyway. There is no nudity, however at one point the couple is shown in bed, but everything is well covered and the two are merely talking. There is also a scene where someone is describing the sexual experience, but it is done more out of awe and respect, and in symbolic terms.

Some may be offended by the whole idea of an artificially created machine achieving the status of “human”. However, the question of whether Andrew did actually become a living being or not is left to the viewer to decide (but it is quite apparent that the viewer is intended to believe he did). As a Christian, and as a professional software engineer, I find it impossible to believe that something like Andrew could ever be created by men. But the point of the story (in my opinion) is not so much to tell a story of what might actually happen as to arouse thinking about what makes a person a person, and what is important and wonderful about being one.

Viewer Comments
…I found this an enjoyable movie. Not a great one but an enjoyable one. On the way home it caused the wife and I to discuss things about how we live or lives and treat others… My Ratings: [3/4]
—Lee Getz, age 47
“walked out”… As I was reading the reviews, I was so happy to see I was not the only parent to take offense to this movie. My husband and I continuously had to get our 6 and 7 year old daughters attention away from the foul language and adult content-sexual parts and feelings associated with them. I can’t believe people rated this PG! We too walked out, angry and disturbed over what people think is a good family movie. What a joke! My Ratings: [1/3]
—B. Pattschull, age 30
“inappropriate for children and adolescents”… As a mother of three small children, (4, 7, 9), and as a Christian, I am profoundly offended and disturbed that a Web site that bills itself as a Christian review of movies would support this movie. Obviously, the reviewer missed a good bit of the movie, and has a different perspective of profanity. Porsha used God’s name in vain using “God d___ it,” when talking to Andrew. Other words such as d___ and h___ were used as well as b__ch by the female robot. The sexual conversations (there were actually two) were far more explicit than anything than I would care for my nine year old to hear, not to mention her younger sisters. There was talk of arousal and intimacy that was far too much information. The bedroom scene, which we did not see as we as well as several other families left, may not have shown nudity, but condoned extramarital sex, a subject that I do not want “glorified” and presented as acceptable to my young daughters. I am sure there are many opinions, however, I can tell you that this movie was discussed heavily at my church choir practice today, and not one Christian mother found it in any way acceptable. I intend to tell everyone that I can that this movie is inappropriate for children and adolescents, Christian or otherwise. My Ratings: [1/2]
—Vanessa Carroll, age 37
“should be rated PG-13”… I was extremely disappointed. I took my whole family (4 boys ages 5-12) and found the language very offensive. The movie should, without a doubt, be rated PG-13. I apologised to my kids after the movie, for taking them to a movie that was inappropriate for them. My Ratings: [1/3]
—John Mais, age 40
not for youngsters… I thought that the movie had a lot of funny quirks to it. I thought the main problem with this movie was the fact that they took the Lord’s name in vain twice, and used a couple of other profain words as well. As for the sexual context it was pretty much clean except for the fact that the robot recieves the male genital in order to be more human like. He also in the end has sex with a woman that he is not married to. They also live together in sin, because a robot and a human cannot be married. I feel that as Christians any form of accepting a man and woman to live in sin is not acceptable under any circumstances. The performances were good by all of the actors. But before taking a child to see the film, one might consider viewing it first. I know for myself I will not be taking anyone younger to see it. My Ratings: [3/3½]
—Carrie Mills, age 23
dangerous theology …The movie was so filled with new age and anti-Christian theology it was unbelievable! Besides the fact that Portia essentially gives up on marriage to have a lifetime of sex with a MACHINE (the Bible does talk about people giving up the natural for the unnatural, God’s word calls it ABOMINATION!), the movie is filled with other references that secular society would like us to buy into. Mercy killing of the aged, and that man can actually create life, all by himself, without any help from God. Then there were the little nuances that secular society would like us to buy into, such as when the court Andrew appeared before. The first time it was the national congress, the second time it was the WORLD congress. Surely I’m not the only one who caught this little brainwashing tactic. …Your reveiwer said that the story was about “Andrew’s quest to find out what it means to be a man,” and the ending of the movie implies that he succeeded. There is only one problem with this theology (and theology it is). What it means to be a man, is to be an eternal being with a soul, created by God, in God’s image! Man cannot ever replicate this, and no machine can ever attain this. There were many children in the audience on the day we went to see “Bicentennial Man,” and I shudder to think of the impressions this movie indellibly ingraved on their young minds. I was not deceived, I would not recommend “Bicentennial Man” to anyone.
—Cheryl, age 38
“disappointing and depressing”… I found this film to be very disappointing, depressing and lacking of a good rating. The previews make it look like a fun family comedy. Wrong! Though the sets are amazing, that doesn’t save the film. The film should have been rated PG-13 for the fact that there are quite a few fresh jokes dealing with sex and other topics that have no place in a PG film. There are also scenes where swearing is made to look like a joke and also comedic bedroom scene. I would not reccomend this film to anyone. My Ratings: [1½/2]
—Anon, age 16
“charming”… I thought it was a beautiful movie and very life affirming. Just like the reviewer said the whole purpose of the movie was to make you appreciate all the things that make us wonderfully human (and even some of the things that are not so wonderful such as death but it is all a part of the human experience just the same). There is even a hint of an afterlife at the end when Portia says to a lifeless Andrew just before she dies, “See you soon.” I thought it was a very charming movie. I didn’t find anything offensive about it all. Go see it!
—Don Lambirth, age 31
“had me in tears”… What a wonderful movie. My husband and I went. I don’t think it’s a movie for children under 11 or so. We both enjoyed it very much. The Lord’s name was taken in vain too many times but there were also a lot of moving moments. It had me in tears a number of times and we laughed till we were in tears too. I would recommend it to all my friends. My Ratings: [5/5]
—Pamela, age 43
“serious reservations”… I went to see this with neighbors (non-Christians), and we came out with different viewpoints. While they seemed to have enjoyed the movie, I came out with several serious reservations. What I observed was the story of Genesis placed in a future perspective. Andrew was created to tend the house, and wishes of his owner (much as Adam was created to serve God’s purposes). Andrew started serving the purpose of his owners, but after a time he became unsatisfied with his purpose in life and decided he wanted more than he was created for (much as Adam and Eve did).

While Andrew did not openly rebel against his owners he did reflect the sins of man: “Andrew” wanted to better himself. (Did not the apple promise KNOWLEDGE to Adam and Eve, and they would be more than what God had created them as?) When Andrew (a machine) was not allowed to marry, he simply lived with his lover (a woman). (What do we do today but take a lover as we desire and commit adultery… “for they give up that which is natural and take on that which is an abomination.”)

When Andrew is before the counsel, in justification he offers the works of his own hands. “Are not the organs ‘I’ have created, in you (the judges kidney), and are you not like ‘ME’ now.” Andrew is told by his lover “There is an order to things (death) which is natural.” The last time I checked, God’s Word says death is NOT natural for man, but the result of sin. When Andrew dies his wife orders the android nurse to commit murder and pull the plug on her support systems so she will die. Do we now support the killing of our elderly just because they are old? I see a movie of a man justifying his own works, a daughter that flaunts an active sex life to her mother, a mother that is unwilling to confront her daughter’s rebellion, and a father that is unwilling to take on responsibility to raise or discipline his children (“I am hoping it is a faze”)… My Ratings: [1½/3]
—Floyd Kramer, age 42
I just wanted to clarify one point made by a couple of other reviewers of this film—they said that Portia’s command at the end of the film—to be disconnected from her life-support—was “suicide.” While they personally might not want to do this, right now any rational adult who is only being kept alive by the use of external machinery has the right to have that machinery disconnected at their request. It’s called “letting nature take its course.” Adults have the right to refuse any medical treatment, or to discontinue treatment they have already received (as I’m sure any Christian Scientist would be happy to affirm). This is different from doctor-assisted suicide, where you have to actively do something to the body to make it die. My Ratings: [1/3½]
—Len, age 28, non-Christian
better rated as PG-13… I took my family of 8, 10, 13 year-olds and my wife to see this movie. It would have been great without the bad language, sexual references and [***SPOILER***] at the end, the decision of a person to take their own life. Like one of your other messages, I thought to take my family out of this PG movie. I thought it would be better rated as PG-13. When my children turned and looked at me with each reference of garbage, I realized how I’d failed to hold the standard in my family. I paid money to fill their minds with things I cannot erase… My Ratings: [2/3]
—Scott H. Malkuch, age 38
wish we hadn’t seen this one… When my aunt took my eight year old cousin and I to view the film, we were expecting a light-hearted comedy. Boy were we mislead. We were not aware of the serious nature of the film at all. The film itself, was okay. As far as profanity and obscenity, I have seen worse but there are a few things to be aware of. I, however, would not recommend taking children under the age of 13 to see this film. The plot and events will in many cases be “over their heads” so to speak. But what got me was the question my cousin asked after the movie was over. “What if we are all robots and we don’t know it?” I think that the filmmakers perhaps did too good a job at combining man with machine. The props used were made to look too realistic, at least from a child’s standpoint. And this is coming from an eight-year old who can normally detect a falsehood faster than any other child I have ever came into contact with. The movie also dealt with death, which with young children is a very sensitive subject. After it was all said and done I wished we’d gone to see something else. My Ratings: [2½/2]
—Jamie, age 25
bad language… As a Christian father I was disappointed. I took my 8 year old daughter to see this movie (without looking into reviews) and I first say shame on me. The language used did NOT have to be there. It would have been a good movie without the swearing. I found myself whispering to my daughter during the movie to distract her from what was being said on the screen. Why does every movie maker think all people talk like that? Do NOT take a preteen to this movie. My Ratings: [1½/3]
—Scott Linder, age 37
A thought provoking movie about what it means to live and be accepted. There are so many topics this movie introduces that would be great to discuss with a group. Yes, there are a few naughty words used, but with Robin Williams I was expecting more. I’m going to see it again and recommend it to others. My Ratings: [3½/4]
—Pastor Perry Wieland, age 43
discussion of free will… The movie makes a very strong theologicial comment near the end that I believe many Christians miss. Andrew states that he doesn’t want to be a “…machine…”, clearly implying he wants “free will.” As a Calvinist, I immediately recognized the Arminian statement in this and felt that it was the underlying point of the movie, i.e., that men have “free will” as opposed to “machines” who are made to be and do for others (God?). Many Christians disagree with Calvinists about what is really a “free will” but to me, it is clear that men only have “free will” to the extent that the are free to be sinners. Once saved, “…by grace, and that not of ourselves.” we have, as Bill Gothard states, “the freedom to do what we ought to do” and are no longer slaves to anyone except the one who loves us enough to die for us. This movie was very powerful but makes a strong statement against sin as the nature of all men and their creations, such as Andrew. He was willing to die for his love. I know of Him who died for me before I could do anything for myself. PTL! I think this movie is a thoughtful statement of man’s hope without Jesus and is worth seeing. Just remember who really loves you!
—Steven G. Hanson, age 51
offensive, not for kids… Warning! Stop! Please do not take your children to this movie unless you want them exposed to every cuss word except the f… word! And that’s not the end of it. Of course, I did not see the end of it, because I took my 8 years old daughter, and my wife and we left when they started to talk about giving this robot, “complete” male parts, from what I had already seen, I dared not trust what may come. Their use of the S… word was a human, not only teaching him the word, but how to use it loud and with expression… My Ratings: [1/4]
—D. Hobbs, age 48