TV Review: 'Tin Man' has no heart
Last month while on a farm in Kansas, at least 20 minutes by car from the nearest entertainment outlet -- a movie theater that's only open Friday and Saturday -- my review discs of Sci Fi Channel's "Tin Man" (9 p.m. today, Monday and Tuesday) seemed particularly appealing. And appropriate, given our location.
A group of four gathered in front of the electronic hearth to watch this new take on "The Wizard of Oz." But by the end of the first two hours -- "Tin Man" runs six hours total -- I was the only one still hanging in. And let's not forget, it's my job to stick with crummy TV programming.
Tonight's installment pretty much hews to the skeleton of the familiar story from the first L. Frank Baum book and famous 1939 feature film.
DG (Zooey Deschanel), a waitress clad in blue and white gingham, has bizarre dreams about a woman with emerald eyes. A tornado tears through the Kansas farm she shares with her parents, and suddenly DG is in the Outer Zone, also known as The O.Z.
She first encounters a clan of tree-dwelling little people who live in what appears to be the recycled Ewok village set from "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi." They're more colorful Ewoks, if Ewoks were played by balding, middle-age men.
- When: 9 p.m. today, Monday and Tuesday, Sci Fi Channel.
- Starring: Zooey Deschanel.
DG is imprisoned with Glitch (Alan Cumming), this version's empty-headed scarecrow character. For a while she thinks she's dreaming, but Glitch says, "This isn't a nightmare, this is The O.Z." For a funnier line, fans of recent television are advised to instead imagine him saying, "Welcome to The O.Z., witch."
Ah, yes, the witch. In "Tin Man," she's a sorceress named Azkadellia (Kathleen Robertson, "Beverly Hills, 90210"). She has tattoos strategically placed above her ample, heaving bosoms, but they're not just tattoos. The tattoos turn into flying monkeys, all the better for multiple chest close-ups!
The Tin Man of the title refers to Wyatt Cain (Neal McDonough, "Boomtown"), a former sheriff who was trapped in a metal chamber and forced to watch a holographic replay of the murder of his wife and child over and over. (How he's nourished or excretes any nourishment while trapped is not discussed.)
Along with cowardly lion-like creature Raw (Raoul Trujillo), they all head down "the old brick road," which leads to a city straight out of "Blade Runner." There DG meets the boozy Mystic Man (Richard Dreyfuss, really slumming), a stand-in for the wizard.
This is also where the story diverges from the one we all know and sets out for parts unknown: Robots in human guise! Secret siblings! Demonic possession! Devil dogs that look like the creatures in a "House of the Dead" video game!
Writers Steven Long Mitchell and Craig W. Van Sickle are certainly inventive, if inventive can mean willing-to-crib-from-sci-fi-culture-past, but the "Tin Man" story doesn't hang together well. They create this world, but it feels incomplete and unconnected, which is common for productions from schlockmeister Robert Halmi Sr. (think: "Dinotopia," "Magical Legend of the Leprechauns," etc.).
In "Tin Man," we meet the colorful aging Ewoks and never see them again. There's all sorts of mumbo jumbo about an emerald "with the power to bring light or darkness to The O.Z." But there's not much in the way of meaningful character growth, despite flashbacks to DG and Azkadellia as children.
In night one, especially, Robertson camps it up in a way no one else in the cast does. It's like she's appearing in a different film altogether, one that's potentially more appealing than "Tin Man," a rusty attempt to put a new shine on an old story.
First Published December 2, 2007 1:05 pm