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Reviews for the week of January 3, 2000.

Monday:
Bicentennial Man

Bicentennial Man
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Robin Williams is a wonderfully talented comic and dramatic actor who has made some superb movies. But he's also made some real stinkers.

Bicentennial Man lies in the somewhere in the middle.

Williams is Andrew, a robot purchased by the Andrews family (this takes place "sometime in the not-too-distant-future"). "Sir", the father (Sam Neill), is impressed with Andrew's personality and other human characteristics. He encourages Andrew to read books and "learn" new things - including Sir's trade, making clocks. Sir's younger daughter, "Little Miss", also befriends Andrew.

As the years go by, Andrew's human family grows up - and eventually everyone dies. Andrew makes friends with Little Miss' granddaughter, Portia (although initially she disliked him), and goes on a search for other robots like himself.

After much globe- trotting, Andrew discovers another recently remodeled robot from his line - and a robotic research scientist, Rupert Burns (Oliver Platt). With Burns' help, Andrew secures a basically human body for himself - just what he's always wanted.

A major factor in whether you like a movie is whether you find the premise believable; I know a critic who said he couldn't get into Faceoff, an excellent John Travolta film, because he simply couldn't get past the premise of two men swapping faces. Although I didn't have any problem with that story, I couldn't see Andrew as anything more than a robot, albeit the human qualities. It's difficult to predict what life will be like in the future, but a robot that experiences human-grade thoughts and feelings?

I don' t think so.

On another note, the script lacked pep, and even Robin Williams couldn't manage to be lively while buried under the metal robot costume. Bicentennial Man isn't as mind-numbingly insipid and poorly written as Flubber (which I consider to be one of Williams' worst films), but it is hardly fascinating.

The best thing I can say for Bicentennial Man is that it was tolerable.

Audio Version

My Rating = Two Stars

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Friday:
Galaxy Quest

Galaxy Quest
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Galaxy Quest is a lively, laughable comedy that makes fun of sci-fi films and television shows. In fact, Galaxy Quest is basically a parody of the Star Trek hype.

Tim Allen is Jason Nesmith, an actor who previously starred on the TV show Galaxy Quest. Sigourney Weaver (real life star of the Alien movies) plays Gwen, one of several costars who resent Jason because he gets all the attention. The show has been off the air for years, and apparently none of the actors have had any significant work since then. So, they open stores and sign autographs at Galaxy Quest conventions. (The conventions are obviously based on Star Trek conventions.)

Then, real aliens come to Earth, requesting Jason's help in defeating their evil enemy. Aware that his former cast members feel left out, Jason invites them along for the trip. Of course, he thinks they're just going to do a show for publicity! But it doesn't take long for everyone to figure out that their new friends are real aliens.

Okay, so Galaxy Quest features unrealistic, silly-looking special effects. But remember, it is a parody, not a real sci-fi film - the important thing is that Galaxy Quest is hilarious, and the characters themselves are realistic (who doesn't know a ham who hogs all the credit?). The idea of real aliens asking actors for intergalactic war strategies is quite original and amusing. And the entire cast was terrific!

Since Galaxy Quest certainly pokes fun at Star Trek conventions and fans, I just wonder how all those "trekkies" will react to this film. A recent documentary Trekkies, a film about all the seriously devoted Star Trek fans - portrayed the "Trekkies" as more than a little obsessive about Star Trek. I always thought Trekkies got a little carried away, so I found Galaxy Quest not only funny, but realistic, as well.

My Rating = Three Stars

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