I work – for myself – from home.  So I can watch movies in the morning if I darn well feel like it, and still be productive by the time 9 AM rolls around.  So today – as I have to do a piece on robots for another site anyway – it was BICENTENNIAL MAN.

Those of us who regularly visit CHUD and the like tend to come standard with a knee-jerk reaction to just about anything Chris Columbus directs.  “How,” we like to ask, “could the man who wrote Gremlins, Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes crap out such treacly dreck?”  (And wouldn’t GREMLINS, GOONIES & YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES be a kick-ass film?)

Well I would argue that, essentially, those of us who regularly visit CHUD and the like are simply not his intended audience.  So when he makes a movie with sci-fi overtones, like Bicentennial Man, he probably doesn’t care too much about the film geek crowd.  It, like almost all of Mr. Columbus’ films, is a family picture; this time around it just happens to have an android as its lead character.  (Robot, android – depending on where you are in the film, Robin Williams is one or the other.)  Yes, it mentions the sacred Three Laws of Robotics, but it doesn’t really do anything with them.  We may THINK, nay, DEMAND that it should be a more complex filmmaking effort.  But we are collectively missing the point.  Mr. Columbus aims for the broadest possible audience, and BLADE RUNNER is not the right ammunition for that job.

This is not meant to entirely forgive the movie’s flaws; some characters are so broadly drawn that they might as well be Flash animations.  A few members of the family Andrew the Android is a part of hate robots because, well… just because, darn it!  They’re stinky!  This is meant to provide some sort of conflict, because really the film has practically no conflict at all – and hence not a lot of drama.  BM (ha ha!) is very even-steven from start to finish, and suffers for it.  No character other than Andrew really evolves, and even his evolution is intensely predictable, particularly for “those of us who regularly visit CHUD and the like” and are familiar with Blade Runner, Star Trek: TNG, Asimov, etc.  So this is not a movie for geeks.

HOWEVER, it works just fine as a “My First Asimov” piece for kids, one I’d happily show my 8 year-old (currently imaginary) as the first step into a larger fictional world.  Maybe that’s not what Mr. Columbus originally intended, but there it is.  And that’s not so bad.  Grade (for kids): B.  Grade (for the rest of us): C.