Robin Williams either plays the most implausible charecters, or carries the most eerie visages, or does some really weird things. Usually, one follows the other. It is very much the case in this movie.
Here, he plays a robot, Andrew, who is bought by the Martin household. Initially, most of the members, with the exception of George Martin (Sam Neill) himself, are annoyed by his presence. However, Martin shows certain traits that are definitely not robotic. For examle, he 'enjoys' doing things. He is particularly enamored by George's younger daughter (Hallie Kate), whom he addresses as 'Little Miss'. George realizes that Andrew is unique but his creators put it down as an anomaly.
Time goes by and George teaches Andrew things that would help him grow as a person. As Little Miss is about to get married, Andrew undergoes his first upgradation to add some expression to his visage. Then comes the biggest change in Andrew as he requests George to grant him freedom. Upon George's death, Andrew sets out to trace more of his kind and ends up at the place of one Rupert Burns (Oliver Platt), who has been working at more dynamic robots. With Rupert's help, he acquires a human appearance and later on, a central nervous system.
Meanwhile, more than a century has gone by, and now Andrew has developed a friendship with Little Miss' granddaughter, Portia (Embeth Davidtz). He finally falls in love with her and manages to win her over with his affable manner. Andrew goes on to acquire a complete human physiology with the exception of his brain, which makes him immortal. Thus, when he seeks to be recognized as a human, his petition is rejected. Does Andrew gives up immortality for a complete human life? The answer to this question drags the movie for a little while longer.
The movie appears very sober compared to most of the Hollywood flicks that have an unrationed number of curses. And this, is a very neutral comment. Definitely meant for the kids. Yet, the undramatic appeal of the movie allows you to relax and take in every thing that goes on the screen. Chris Columbus has made a name for himself mainly by doing comedies like Home Alone 1 & 2, Mrs. Doubtfire and Nine Months. But Stepmom and Bicentennial Man see him try out something that is more emotionally appealing, though not profound.
Robin Williams predictably dominates the scene but there is enough in the characters of Portia and Little Miss, as well as George Martin, to endear them to us. Embeth Davidtz is utterly charming as Portia. Surprisingly, Williams' charm in this movie is more obvious when he is behind the robot's mask. Maybe, it is the civility of his voice. A good enough performance.