After the epic showdown of two weeks ago — in which friend was pitted against friend, mentor against mentee, sugar against vinegar — the Pawnee Parks and Recreation department is once again united in a common mission. In a plot line that harkens back to Parks and Rec's earlier (dare I say, fresher?) seasons, Leslie is once again on a mission to build a park. A green, lush, beautiful park located on the location that was formerly known as The Pit. Personally, I'm loving the return of The Pit this season. In fact, I would love a webisode that is essentially a live feed of the Lot Formerly Known as the Pit, featuring music by Mouse Rat. But I digress…
You're Like a Southern Belle when Rhett Butler Comes Around.
Before the opening credits, we find Leslie Knope as the guest on a local NPR-wannabe radio station (where can I get a ticket to the spoken word opera about pear-shaped women?) pleading for the citizens of Pawnee to submit résumés and designs for her new park. Fast-forward one credit sequence and a few days and we find Leslie and Ben sifted through said proposals. Unfortunately, most of them are from prison inmates and crazy people.
But ho! There is one brilliant ray of hope beaming forth from the pile of sludge! Mr. Wreston St. James, architect, has an impressive portfolio and shiny new plan for the Pit Park. There is only one catch… he's from Eagleton! Ugh, vomit, gross, cooties Eagleton. The only thing that Leslie Knope hates more than sadness, death, and the library. But thanks to Ben's coaxing and the overall lack of other options, Leslie and Ben head out to meet this Mr. St. James in person and see what he is all about.
It's love at first sight between Ben and Wreston St. James, who not only designed the biggest park I've ever seen outside of Disney World's Animal Kingdom (complete with a balloon artist extraordinaire) but also seems to be the nicest person on the face of the planet. But while Ben is enamored and wants to hire St. James immediately, Leslie is having a hard time overcoming her loathing of Eagleton as like, a place on the planet that exists. St. James really does seem to good to be true — I wouldn't trust him any farther than I could throw him. But with no other viable options, Leslie is against a hard place and a vast expanse of nothing, so she decides to take a chance on Wreston. That is, after she says she's sss…. soorr… sorrrrr… sorUGH… sorry. There. She's sorry.
When Wreston sends his assistants to present his plans for the park in his stead, all of Leslie's nightmares come true. Their model of Pawnee's newest park is full of terrible, gross, nasty things — like drool buckets, cheeseburger troughs, and public showers complete with bathing instructions (the joke being that the people Pawnee are smelly and don't know how to shower) and Leslie is whatever is more angry than furious.
Determined to get an explanation, Ben heads to Eagleton for a lunch date with Wreston. Leslie, meanwhile, plans her revenge. Just as Wreston tells Ben that his lackeys worked without his permission and were fired once news of their wrongdoing reached his ears, Leslie bursts in, shaving cream cans blaring. "You want a silly tie? I'll make you a silly tie!" she screams as she attacks Wreston. Leslie, your timing is impeccable.
But, since Parks is largely rainbows and butterflies these days and never leaves a conflict without resolution, Wreston decides to forgive Leslie and move forward with his plan for the park. Which is truly awesome (the park, not the forgiveness). It even has a Lil' Sebastian fountain. Long live Lil' Sebastian — may he rest in peace.
Good Use of the Word Fiscal, Very Upscale
Gone is the swagerific, irresponsible, pipe dream-chasing Tom Haverford, and in his place is a penny-pinching, budget balancing, levelheaded businessman. "Tommy Timberlake is dead," Tom proclaims, "Long live Thomas M. Haverford: Responsible Tycoon." Tom has found a location for Rent-a-Swag and the whole gang is ready to turn it into the most beautiful storefront this side of Entertainment 720 — just as soon as they get rid of the raccoons. Unfortunately, new and improved Tom is not so much fun. He's the kind of guy who tries to order a carton of eggs from the diner, who chooses booger yellow paint because it's on sale, and whose idea of a pizza party is one small pizza without any toppings. Raise your hand if this sounds like your dad! Without his usual spunk and risk-seeking attitude, Tom might just drive the best business he's ever had into the ground.
Luckily, Ann is on hand for an intervention. "Go find your sparkle, Tom!" she says. "Don't forget who you are!" And she hands him a wad of cash, courtesy of the group, to use to spice up his new store. Newly invigorated and inspired, Tom glams up his new digs and looks just about ready for business.
Oh Hitler, You Sexy Bastard.
As City Hall's security guard, Andy is bored. He is so bored he starts to think about existence. To liven things up, he calls April down to keep him company, and the two embark on an elaborate roll-playing mission starring FBI Agent Bert Macklin and the wily Judy Hitler, daughter of Adolf. Hitler jokes abound.
Things get serious, however — as they are wont to do — when Andy and April run across a young boy who has become separated from his mother. Goofball Andy is nothing if not compassionate, so he swings the lad up onto his back for a piggyback ride and sets off to find the missing mother. Of course, the two are quickly reunited. This prompts a syrupy sweet moment in which April tells Andy that he, not Bert Macklin, is the real hero. Awww!
Best line of the night: "You have 5 seconds to get out of here or I will rip your throats out." (It's the delivery here that sells this one.)
Follow Abbey Stone on Twitter @abbeystone
[Photo Credit: NBC]
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Playing second fiddle to a more famous sibling can be rough. Just ask Fred Claus (Vaughn) a regular guy who has had to grow up under the shadow of his little brother Nicholas Claus (Paul Giamatti) aka Santa. That’s a big shadow to say the least both figuratively and literally. As an adult Fred has pretty much steered clear of his family but when he finds himself in dire need of some fast cash he calls his brother. Pleased as punch to hear from him Nicholas nonetheless makes him a deal: If he comes up to the North Pole for a visit and to help out the few days before Christmas then Fred can have the money. Fred reluctantly agrees and soon he’s being whisked off in Santa’s sleigh by head elf Willie (John Michael Higgins). But once Fred gets to the North Pole nothing seems to go right and soon he is the cause of much chaos--which unbeknownst to Fred causes Nicholas even more stress since his North Pole operation is one step away from being shut down by a cold-hearted efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey). Can Fred quit being bitter in time to save his brother’s livelihood? Of course he can. Hmmm Vince Vaughn minus the R-rated Wedding Crashers/Old School irreverence? It’s a stretch. Seeing the comic actor playing it PG is a little weird but you might enjoy how Vaughn infuses his unique energy into Fred Claus. From getting all the elves to boogie down in Santa’s workshop to going on one rant after another (on his brother: “He’s a clown a megalomaniac a fame junkie!”) to pilfering money on the street and then being chased by Salvation Army Santas it’s all good. Giamatti too seems a little out of his comfort zone as the saintly St. Nick. The actor who usually plays such endearing sad sacks has already played against type to great effect this year as the maniacal bad guy in Shoot ‘Em Up but he isn't nearly as successful in doing the flipside of that in Fred Claus. And what the hell is Kevin Spacey doing in this? As the villain of the film he fills the shoes nicely but he is almost too good at it (natch) for such a feel-good family film. Even Higgins--a character actor who is usually so hilarious in films such as The Break Up and all of Christopher Guest’s movies—has to shed the cheekiness and sugar himself up for Fred Claus. There’s also Rachel Weisz as Fred’s beleaguered girlfriend (you heard right) and Kathy Bates as the Claus boys’ mother who always sees Fred as inferior to her other son to fill out a cast of big names doing family fare. Director David Dobkin is a Vince Vaughn favorite having directed him in Wedding Crashers and Clay Pigeons but like his muse Dobkin seems a little out of place guiding this material. Granted Dobkin creates a pretty magical North Pole complete with an entire city of little dwellings a Frosty Tavern and a huge domed Santa’s Workshop. The montage of Fred delivering presents on Christmas Eve—falling down chimneys stuffing cookies in his face zooming around in the sleigh—is also well done. But overall Fred Claus is a Vaughn vehicle—even as sugary sweet and family-friendly as it is--and all Dobkin really does is turn the camera on and let the man do his stuff. Dan Fogelman's script is also so very bland full of any number of holes and only picks up once Vaughn starts to improvise. Bottom line: If you’re looking to take the kids to a sweet Christmas movie and are a Vince Vaughn fan then Fred Claus is for you.