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'Sweet Tooth': Half deer, half boy and all heart

In "Sweet Tooth," Christian Convery is on the

In "Sweet Tooth," Christian Convery is on the search for his mother. Credit: NETFLIX/Kirsty Griffin

THE SERIES “Sweet Tooth”

WHEN | WHERE Streaming now on Netflix

WHAT IT'S ABOUT After the emergence of a novel virus, the birth of a mysterious spate of human-animal hybrid babies and the subsequent collapse of society as we know it, a deer boy named Gus (Christian Convery) is taken into the woods of what was once Yellowstone National Park by his father (Will Forte).

He's brought there as a baby and raised without any human contact, as the hybrid children have become feared and hunted by society at large. But when Gus turns 10, the outside world finds him and his father.

These circumstances then send him on a journey beyond the narrow slice of Wyoming woods to seek out the mother he never knew in the company of the reluctant loner Tommy Jepperd (Nonso Anonzie).

This eight-episode Netflix series from the excellent independent filmmaker Jim Mickle ("In the Shadow of the Moon") is an adaptation of the "Sweet Tooth" comic series by Jeff Lemire.

It also stars Adeel Akhtar and Dania Ramirez as a doctor and therapist, respectively, who are major characters with their own plotlines as well. "Sweet Tooth" is streaming now.

MY SAY It is, of course, deeply unsettling to watch a fictional TV series about the emergence of an unknown virus and to recognize so many scenes: doctors covered in personal protective equipment in overwhelmed hospitals; characters insisting on wearing masks at a dinner table; TV broadcasts in which government figures somberly report significant death totals.

Jim Mickle knows that this is not the sort of foreign territory it was when Lemire's series began in 2009, and to his credit, he never shies away from the obvious parallels with the age of COVID-19.

But in "Sweet Tooth," based on a screening of its first two episodes, the creator smartly packages these terrors in a fashion that at once confronts them honestly and contextualizes them in a way that's friendly for young teen viewers.

An unflinching depiction of the hatred and bias facing Gus and his fellow hybrids — both in the form of the hunters pursuing him and the misconceptions of even the kindest people he encounters along the way — coexists intelligently with coming-of-age moments that place the series well within the confines of the best young adventures.

The approach makes it possible to be swept away by the scope of it all, especially in the interplay between the grand natural vistas and the post-apocalyptic residue, while the story remains grounded in stark, haunting truths.

It means that there's room to develop the touching friendship between Gus and Tommy, which brings with it the emotionally resonant spectacle of a misanthropic man simply being unable to turn off the kindness buried within, while the story also engages with some of the most tragic human flaws.

In short, "Sweet Tooth" exemplifies the best of what fantasy storytelling can be, creating a whole world without ever forgetting that the most important one of all is our own.

BOTTOM LINE "Sweet Tooth" is perfect for families with young teens looking for thought-provoking, age-appropriate entertainment.

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