Written By: Dugan Bridges, Matthew Perkins
Starring: Aaron Beelner, Kay Cannon, Jeff Hiller, Chris Henry Coffey, Emmanuel Maldonado, Eddie Dunn
Herman (Aaron Beelner) is a thirty-five year-old waiter working in his mother’s restaurant, who does the occasional acting gig. He’s also a little person. As such, he is forced to endure many things that the average person is not. Some people don’t give him the same respect as someone of normal height, often condescending to him, and others have a strange sort of fascination with him. He seems to be a little half-hearted about his acting career, since as a little person, he’s automatically typecast. The only roles offered to him are based around his size, like one of Santa’s elves in a Christmas-themed commercial.
Days before his thirty-sixth birthday, his mother abruptly passes away. To his incredulity, her will leaves everything to his half-brother Greg (Jeff Hiller). The only thing that Herman has been left behind is a ‘directive.’ It turns out his mother’s dying wish was to have him take his acting career more seriously. Herman is understandably upset that he’s been left with next to nothing, and he has no idea about how to pursue this directive.
Coincidentally, his agent Tyrone (Eddie Dunn) tells Herman about a new opportunity for him. Martin Scorsese is remaking The Wizard of Oz, and his agent has scheduled Herman to audition for the mayor of Munchkinland. Herman is reluctant to try out for yet another pigeonholed character that will inevitably lead him nowhere. While talking it over with his close friend Miller (Kay Cannon), she suggests that instead of just settling for a small part, he should try out for one of the lead roles. She thinks that the Tin Man character would be perfect for Herman, since he’s just another guy looking for a heart.
The next day, when he does request to read for the Tin Man, the casting directors turn him down. When he refuses to leave until they give him a chance, they have him removed from premises. Frustrated at this blown opportunity, Herman has no idea what to do next. Miller refuses to let him give up and she recommends that he find some way to go to Martin Scorsese directly so that he can get a better role in the film. He agrees, but while they begin making their plans, he decides to try and see if he can win a bigger role in Miller’s life too.
The film was produced on a relative shoestring budget, but never looks or feels that way. The cinematography looks gorgeous, and they make some excellent choices with lighting and framing of shots. The audition scene is especially noteworthy. It perfectly captures the awkward tension that actors are forced to go through when they audition. There are also multiple New York streetside shots that capture the immense size of the city in a small image, juxtaposed by the size of Herman as he walks its streets.
The film’s script is equally impressive. The jokes are funny throughout, and they are not just chuckles. There are several moments that will make the viewer’s stomach hurt from laughter. Its humor is never mean-spirited, or cheap gross-out moments.
It’s difficult to fully describe just how good The Little Tin Man is. The movie is smart, funny, warm-hearted, optimistic and most importantly, fresh. Each member of the cast feel like they’re three-dimensional, fully-realized people. It doesn’t feel that these people are just actors playing a part. That fact speaks volumes about the effort put forth by the actors, the writers, and the director. Best of all is the sense of hope in the message. No matter what difficulties your life may be saddled by, they can be overcome if you try hard enough.
In the media-saturated world that we live in, it’s difficult for critics to find a property that feels fresh, original, alive and exciting. The Little Tin Man is each and every one of those things and it deserves to be seen by a wide audience. If you’re lucky enough to have it showing in your area sometime soon, do yourself a favor and take the time to see it. I highly doubt that you’ll be disappointed. It’s truly a little film with great big heart, and who in their right mind can dislike that?