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ROBIN WILLIAMS IN BICENTENNIAL MAN & JUMANJI

year: 1999 rating: ***
BICENTENNIAL MAN: The worst thing about this heartwarming comedy starring Robin Williams as a robot serving a rich family who eventually accepts him as one of their own… is exactly what you just read – which is not what the movie is about.

But the trailer, commercials and posters promote it this way. Instead it’s a somewhat melancholy yet entertaining science-fiction film (based on a novel by Isaac Asimov) about a robotic butler who has humanistic elements. He eventually leaves the family and goes on a journey to discover a robot like himself, but to no avail. Although he does find a doctor who has an answer for all his problems, giving him/it the means of becoming a real person, which is much too easy and  creepy (a robot having sex?).

The first hour, as William’s “Andrew,” a top-of-the-line android who resembles an educated Iron Man, works for Sam Neill, teaching him about philosophy and art, is the most involving. Eventually, Andrew falls in love with Neill’s daughter’s granddaughter, both played by the lovely Embeth Davidtz: This second half falters – every fifteen minutes there’s a title card reading MANY YEARS LATER, feeling as if things are rushing towards a conclusion. And although this is not a comedy, director by Chris Columbus, who served up Williams in the hilarious MRS. DOUBTFIRE, throws in some humor for levity.

1995 ***1/2
JUMANJI: Completely entertaining kid's flick (that adults can enjoy) about a board game bringing safari animals to life: first pillaging a mansion and then a small town: including lunatic monkeys, liken to the protagonists in GREMINS, along with a bevy of bats, mosquitos, rhinos, elephants, and a lion.

The special effects, right after JURRASIC PARK's CGI paved the way… are manned by Speilberg student Joe Johnston, directing Robin Williams as a grown-up who, when younger, was sucked into the board game: this where the movie begins.

A crazy, bearded and inspired Williams joins two present day kids to finish the game – each move bringing more and more animals, and one lethal hunter, into frantic reality. The pace never lets up, but there are essential pockets of downtime to build the characters: investing you in their, and the game's, outcome.
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