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Boy are we not in Kansas anymore: Tin Man takes Wizard of Oz down dark (but good) paths

In television on 08/01/2009 at 2:27 pm

Tin Man starring Zooey Deschanel, Neal McDonough, Raul Trujillo, Alan Cumming, Richard Dreyfuss (not pictured, and Kathleen Robertson

I have an old copy of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz that I bought to keep for when my neices and nephews are old enough and, hopefully, interested enough to read. Same for the movie, the VHS copy of which has been replaced by a DVD and, probably, a Blu-ray before the time comes.
None of them are old enough for it now, scary as the story can be in the book and movie, with its dead Wicked Witch of the East, bad though she is, and flying monkeys and crying Dorothy.
But the re-imagining of Baum’s classic story into the sci-fi miniseries Tin Man makes the old book and film look charmingly benign.
This new work, which premiered on U.S. cable and Canadian satellite way back in 2007, gets its Canadian television premiere tonight (Saturday) through Monday on Space, airing for two hours nightly at 9 p.m. ET.
It is a dark, dark telling, replacing the sweet fantasy elements of a woodsman turned to tin, a scarecrow who longs for a brain and a cowardly lion.
In Tin Man, the theme that has resonated with generations of readers and filmgoers — there’s no place like home — remains but the home is not a farm in Kansas. Here, DG (Zooey Deschanel) is a young woman bristling under her parents’ attempts to keep her at home. She is impatient with her father’s stories of his ideal childhood. And then a storm comes. But not just any storm. In Tin Man, storms are for travelling from one dimension, DG’s Other Side, to The Outer Zone. Upon arrival, she finds a world ruled by the sorceress Azkadellia who generously deals out psychological and physical torture to those who resist her firm hand and to those whose powers can be useful.
The squeamish will wince at her treatment of a group known as the Viewers, clairvoyants whe see with their hearts. The Tin Man, played by the spooky-eyed Neal McDonough (Band of Brothers, Desperate Housewives), is seeking revenge against Azkadellia and Zero, her stylishly clad henchman (Callum Keith Rennie). Describing the others would ruin the joy of discovery.
And it is “joy”. Though this is dark, maybe too dark for viewers under 13 or 14 even if watched with parents, this is a nicely handled story.
The roles are solid, the twists on the story are well-earned and the pacing is good. If you can’t see yourself setting aside two hours a night for three nights, remember to set your PVR (or VCR, but… really?) or nip out to the video store and rent the DVD of the whole series. It was released last October.
But do watch.
My only quibble? Having watched only the first of three parts, I see that the wizard is not the “great and powerful Oz”, or at least not so far, and that is such a heartbreaker, although Richard Dreyfuss is terrific as this inside-out version of the wizard.
Perhaps it all gets sorted out. And even if not, it’s a forgiveable thing.
Now then, here’s an interview with one of my favourite Canadian actors, Callum Keith Rennie, in which he talks about how much he enjoys his bad guy roles in Tin Man, as the evil Akkadelia’s leather-suited henchman Zero, on Battlestar Galactica (well, partly bad) and, upcoming, in 24, in which he plays a Russian mobster.
— Denise Duguay

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