S4E14: Most sitcom episodes drawing on whatever time of year we're in as a theme (Halloween! Christmas! Hannukah! St. Patty's Day! Arbor Day!) usually fall flat for me. That said, I'm not sure Parks and Recreation has ever missed a beat for me when they've tackled the holidays. So when I realized the show was dabbling in the most romantic of days, Valentine's Day...well, my heart was aflutter. I do love the show, after all. Thankfully, they didn't break my heart, tonight's episode "Operation Ann" delivering on the laughs.
"Ann's not totally hideous, why does she need our help?" - April
February 13. Gal-entine's Day. The day where all the lady's can share their stories and hug it out. This year, most everyone in Leslie's life has a significant other—including herself. But for the first time in recent memory, Ann is sing and, frankly, not dealing with it well.
In an effort to cheer up her BFF, Leslie tasks everyone in the office with finding an eligible bachelor to bring along to the Valentine's mixer, as a potential hook-up for Ann. The results are as disastrous as you might expect: April brings her goth friend Oren; Tom recommends himself; Jerry accidentally hires a male gigolo. Even Leslie's picks are lackluster—Jeff, for instance, had to admit his sister was more beautiful than Ann. But in true Knope spirit, there was no resting until a suitor could be found.
Although earlier this season I was dying to get to the actual Knope 2012 election, after three episodes of solid campaigning, I am happy to see Parks take a break in favor of a little character TLC. I think the show is at its best when it's peppering its scenes with non-regular Pawnee citizens, and all of Ann's potential dating options were hilarious. A goofy episode, sure, but a welcome change of pace.
"Did you try f***?" - Ron
There's no surprise that celebrating Valentine's Day with Leslie Knope is not your run-of-the-mill romantic celebration, and Ben gets a full serving of crazed holiday traditions when he's sent on a V-Day scavenger hunt. With the help of Andy and Ron, Ben cracks the code of a cryptex ("from The Da Vinci Code, the first movie we watched on Starz HD), which sends the trio down a rabbit hole of riddles, a race across every familiar location in town. From the gay bar The Bump to J.J.'s Diner to a Snowglobe museum (which included a sweet cameo from Adam Scott's Party Down co-star Martin Starr!), the gents sweep Pawnee to find the final clue leading Ben to his epic date. The real winner of the chase? Ron. Boy, does he love riddles. Like a lot.
This episode more than others is a fury of jokes, almost all of them killing. Whether Ron is suffocating from enjoyment, Andy's picking up sticks that look like deer or the writers are throwing us Party Down fans a nice inside curveball, the show is sharp and on fire. One of the funnier half hours of the new year.
"Millicent Gergrich has literally torn my heart from my body, and replaced it with a thick slab of sadness. I may never smile again." - Chris
In last week's episode "Bowling for Votes," we saw Chris have his heartbroken by Jerry's daughter Millicent, and now Valentine's Day is slowly destroying the generally-chipper man. To cope, Chris volunteers to DJ the Valentine's social (plus he doesn't think Tom's recommendation of a DJ who wants to get everyone "wet with sound" is appropriate), and spends a majority of the mixer moping and playing music from the end of a movie where a monk kills himself. Not that danceable. But as Leslie notices as the night tapers off, Chris mysteriously slips away...
"How is your night unfolding? In terms of the conversations you're having with men." - Leslie
Realizing she doesn't have much of a chance, Ann takes off the from the dance, followed intently by a suspicious Leslie. Is her best friend sneaking away for a date? And with who? Could it be Chris!?
Putting two and two together (albeit against the discouraging words of April, who finally appears to be looking out for Ann), Leslie takes off to meet Ben at the final location (Lil' Sebastian's grave, how romantic!), then tracks Ann at her romantic rendezvous. The goal is to catch Chris and Ann in the act, an inner-office relationship Leslie and Ben can rub in Chris' face, but what they do find is even more shocking. Ann...and Tom...on a date.... April catches up with the two Peeping Tom's to clue them in. April set them up it seems, as Tom was really the only guy making Ann smile—so why not?
The episode concludes with Ann and Tom making small talk ("Go back to my place and snuggle up like little bunnies?" "No."), but what we have here might be potential for a new arc, a ripe Tom/Ann romance ready to blossom. Does our favorite loud-mouth and Pawnee's resident nurse/Parks Dept part-timer have a future, or is this going to fizzle out like the rest of Ann and Tom's relationships?
I'm crossing my fingers that love's in the air.
P.J. Hogan's Peter Pan follows J.M. Barrie's story almost to the letter. A girl on the brink of womanhood Wendy Darling (newcomer Rachel Hurd-Wood) loves telling her brothers John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell) stories of dastardly pirates as they sit in their nursery under the watchful eye of their St. Bernard Nana. Her 19th-century Londoner parents however believe the time has come for the young girl to grow up especially her father. Then a cheeky wild-haired boy named Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter) flies through the nursery window one night with his trusted yet jealousy-prone fairy Tinkerbell (Ludivine Sagnier) telling Wendy he can take her to a place full of adventure where no one ever has to grow up. She readily accepts the offer and with a few happy thoughts some fairy dust and her two brothers in tow she flies off to Neverland. (Not the ranch…the real place.) Once there Wendy encounters mermaids Indians and the Lost Boys (who refer to her as "mother") and gets the whole pirate experience in Peter's ongoing feud with arch-nemesis Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs). But Wendy soon becomes conflicted because on the one hand she likes hangin' with hottie Peter but on the other she misses her mother. She decides it's probably best to go back and grow up but in her hurry to leave she ends up in Hook's clutches. A rescue ensues. Swords clash ticking crocodiles are fed and fairies are saved as our clever fly boy zooms Wendy and company back to London on a giant pirate ship. But does he stay and grow up himself? Hell no he's a Toys 'R Us kid forever!
All the kid actors in Peter Pan are highly watchable and appealing with angelic faces peaches-and-cream complexions and pouty cherry lips. This is the first time Peter is being played by a real-life boy a fact much hyped by the filmmakers and 12-year-old Sumpter (Frailty) does his best to live up to the expectations. (He's soon to be swoon-worthy material for sure.) He's got a mischievous gleam in his eye and a great sly smile but he really lights up when he's looking into Wendy's adorable face. Hurd-Wood the first-time actress who plays the spirited girl earned her role after a long and involved casting process it's well deserved; she fits the typical English-girl profile perfectly and gets the hang of her craft quickly infusing the character with a natural cheerful energy. It's also refreshing to see the young actors play up Wendy and Peter's feelings of first love which prior films always hinted at but never fully realized. Isaacs in a dual role as the firm-but-loving Mr. Darling and the frightening comical lonely charming needy reprehensible Captain Hook draws on his experience at playing exquisitely awful baddies (The Patriot Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and really sinks his claws into Hook. In a stand out supporting role French actress Sagnier (Swimming Pool) is really fantastic as the vivacious non-speaking Tinkerbell portraying the fairy's conflicted emotions with a silent-film over-the-top technique.
Director/writer P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend's Wedding) and his team try to distinguish their film from the other Peter Pans of the world by using all the technical and special effects wizardry at their disposal. Hogan says his Peter Pan is the way its author Barrie intended to be when he wrote it as a play over a 100 years ago--full of fantasy and wonder. In a way he's right and production designer Roger Ford and visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar take his vision and run with it giving audiences a very lush Neverland with waterfalls fluffy pink clouds crystal-blue waters and a gorgeous fairy world. But despite the bells and whistles there really isn't anything original and different in this Pan. Even its look at the dark side of Neverland has been done in Steven Spielberg's 1991 semi-sequel Hook which showed the dangers of Neverland. In this version lives really are at stake and the pirates are not cute and fun. Even the mermaids are mysterious and malevolent with scary faces and murderous intentions a far cry from the beautiful if somewhat mean-spirited creatures of the 1953 classic Disney animated adaptation another inescapable influence on the audience. When the crocodile draws near for example tick-tocking away the croc's signature tune from the Disney film comes immediately to mind. People may love those Disney films for those cutesy catchy songs but Peter Pan really is a good story. Heck it's a great story. But it's just been done.