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Bicentennial Man

Bicentennial Man
A Touchstone Home Video Release
1999, 131 Minutes, Color, Rated PG

Starring:  Embeth Davidtz, Oliver Platt, Sam Neill, Stephen Root, Wendy Crewson, Robin Williams
List Price:  $32.99 USD, released 06/13/00
Packaging:  Keepcase, Region 1 NTSC
Disc Format:  Single Sided, Dual Layered (DVD-9)
Aspect Ratio:  1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio Formats:  English 5.1, French 5.1
Subtitles:  English
Closed Captioning:  English
Features:  Featurette, Theatrical Trailer, Interactive Menus, Scene Selection.

Part science fiction, part drama, part comedy and part romance, Bicentennial Man treats us to the epic 200-year journey of an android whose only goal is to become truly human. Robin Williams stars as Andrew, the robot purchased as a household aid by the Martin family. But as time goes on, Andrew proves himself to be more than just a mere appliance. He begins to express interest in music, humor and art – traits he was never programmed for. Picking up the clock making trade of his owner, Andrew quickly makes a name for himself – as well as his first fortune. When he hears about "upgrades" tested by the robotic company who built him, NorthAm Robotics, he pays to have them installed. And thus, bit by bit, Andrew physically makes himself a new man. But changing the outside isn’t all that Andrew needs to work on. His greatest challenge will be growing as a person, dealing with his unique nature, the death of his human friends, and finding true love. But when Andrew puts his mind to accomplishing unusual and seemingly impossible goals, they get done!

Based on the Isaac Asimov novel The Positronic Man (which is in turn based on the short story The Bicentennial Man), the movie closely follows the original story line though it has modifications to give it more screen appeal. As an avid Asimov reader, I was impressed by how well this film was handled – it has a truly unique feel to it. Williams plays the difficult part of Andrew quite well (some say brilliantly), while the special effects makeup used throughout the film are unsurpassed.

Disney’s anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is quite stunning. I found the color accuracy, detail and black levels all to be perfect. There is very little film grain or noise, plus the master print was in excellent condition – bright and vivid. Throughout the entire two hour plus movie, I didn’t see any noticeable flaws or artifacting. Overall, a very commendable transfer. The dual-layered disc hold 6.9 gigabytes of data, with the completely invisible layer change most likely occurring at the beginning of chapter 18, or 1:15.18 into the film. The disc is divided into an impressive 30 chapters and contains English subtitles and Closed Captioning information.

Being primarily a drama, I wouldn’t expect Bicentennial Man to include the most active soundmix on the block – but it really surprises! The great Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is quite active with stunning clarity. Vocal tracks are crisp and easy to hear over the great musical score by James Horner (Mighty Joe Young, Titanic, Jumanji). No background hiss or unwanted sound can be heard anywhere in the movie. In addition, you’ll find a 5.1 French soundtrack, which suffers slightly when compared to the English mix.

Bonus features are extremely limited. First is a five minute full-screen production featurette in stereo sound with limited collector value. Finally, there’s a long full-screen theatrical trailer with 5.1 audio, which is in very good condition. Unfortunately the disc still includes Disney’s annoying forced preview trailer at the beginning, which plays each time you insert the disc. At least this time there’s only one to deal with!

Overall, Bicentennial Man is an excellent movie with fantastic audio and video transfers. Although there’s no special features to speak of, this one’s worth buying strictly for the movie.

- Reviewed by Daniel Tonks on August 15, 2000.

Video Quality:
Audio Quality:
1-Poor 2-Fair 3-Good 4-Excellent
System Equipment
Sony DVP-S500D DVD Player
Sony STR-GA8ES 5.1 Receiver
Sony 32" XBR250 WEGA TV using Component
Nuance Spatial Baby Grand 3E & StarSat

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