Filled with a possum, a trip to the hospital, and a surprise promotion — not to mention something called "blood spurt" — "Animal Control" packs quite the punch. Leslie (Amy Poehler) takes on the defunct Animal Control department while Ben (Adam Scott) seeks new donors for the Sweetums Foundation and Ron (Nick Offerman) faces his most formidable foe — no, not Tammy 2. Laughter (as always) ensues.
I. There are four ways to skin a cat.
We got our first glimpse at Pawnee's Animal Control department when the Department of Emergency Preparedness dropped in to execute their annual drill… and it wasn't pretty. (Refresher: No, dude, you can't kill all the chickens.) But when Leslie and Chris (Rob Lowe) swing by to evaluate its efficiency, we are greeted with a picture bleaker than we even imagined. While Pawnee is overrun with vermin, the Department of Animal Control is run by two stoners who don't know a cat from a possum and who's greatest achievement is their non-working recreation of the Flintstone's bird horn. When Chris steps into an animal trap — seriously injuring one of his running feet — it's the final straw; Stoner No. 1 and Stoner No. 2 are dunzo.
It's up to the City Council to name a new Director of Animal Control, and Councilman Jamm (Boo! Hiss! You're the worst!) knows just the guy. He's kind of an alcoholic, teaches kids breakdancing, and has fantastic teeth. Leslie is all, "Oh hell no!" — except less sweary, Leslie doesn't swear — and demands proposes that each member of the city council nominate someone for the position.
Binders in hand and April and Chris by her side, Leslie sets forth to find the perfect candidate. Let the interviews begin! After dismissing two familiar-looking marijuana enthusiasts ("Whoa, that's this job?"), an under-qualified Jerry (who earns himself a salary reduction by revealing that he only went to a two-year college, duh), a man who seems too excited by the prospect of having unfettered access neutering equipment, and Orin, Leslie is… underwhelmed.
Who in the heck does Leslie know who is qualified for the position, loves animals, and is surprisingly committed to small town government? Hmm… this one's tricky. I totally didn't see it coming at all when Leslie tells April she has nominated her for the job. And, surprise! April has to go in front of the City Council for questioning right that very instant. There's no time like the present, right?
Jamm, looking to do a little jamming — does he realize how dirty his catchphrase sounds? — rides April hard (I'm just going to go with it). He brings up April's underage drinking in City Hall, reads her personal (sexual) emails to Andy, and provokes our young pessimist into threatening him. Things are not looking so good for April, so Leslie pulls her aside for a little pep talk. Give up, Leslie tells her. Leslie admits that she pushed April in front of the council too soon, and tells her to just give up and let the good-teeth loser have the job. To counter the most Debbie Downer pep talk of all time, April asks Leslie to trust her.
Standing in front of the City Council once again, April totally saves the day. (Because of course, she's the best.) You shouldn't be looking for someone to run Animal Control, she says, because the entire department should just be dissolved into the Parks Department anyway. Everyone — even Jamm, who is tired of being on the losing side of things — approves her plan.
So, in the happy ending we have come to expect in Pawnee, April gets her promotion after all; Leslie names her the Parks Dept's Deputy Director of Animal Control. And while April doesn't get to hire an intern or a Mexican elf, she does get a shiny new placard with her name on it. (Is anyone else wondering what happened to April's veterinary school applications?
II. Dennis Feinstein, Perfume Mogul
Settling in his new position as President of the Sweetums Foundation, Ben is dedicated to raising funds for the new charity. He enlists Tom's help in buttering up Dennis Feinstein, perfume mogul, a**hole, and Pawnee's resident multi-millionaire, in order to secure a hefty check. Andy, now working with Ben, is along for a "learning experience."
Two seconds after speaking to Dennis — with whom, the savvy watcher will remember, Ben interview with for a job — Ben knows that he's a terrible human. He cares more about his Rolexus (a Lexus filled with Rolexes) and hunting "foxes" than he does about people.
After hours of unsuccessful brown-nosing, cigar smoking, and Toxic fragrance overdosing, Ben is ready to cinch the deal. Andy, however, is ready to speak is him. "You're a dick," he says. Dennis freaks out and throws them out of the cigar club.
The next day, Ben, Tom, Andy, return to Dennis' Sideboob-filled (come on, it's a perfume) office to apologize. "From the bottom of my heart, I want to say, 'My bad,'" says Andy. And Dennis seems satisfied. He was hoping they would apologize, he says. He's ready to forgive them, he says. He hands Ben a check for $25,000… made out to "Go F**k Yourself."
Andy was right, Dennis is a huge d**k. Tom, however, is awesome. He vows to donate five cents for every dollar made at Rent a Swag in the next month.
III. I live the way I live, I eat the way I eat, and I'll die the way I'll die.
And what's Ron Swanson doing amidst all this chaos? Our steak-loving libertarian is sick as sick can be. After watching a film "in which an orange fish separated from his father" with Diane's and her children, he has contracted some sort of terrible disease — or, you know, a cold.
Ann ushers Ron to the hospital, where he is forced to reveal intimate personal details (he is allergic to cowardice, weak-willed men, and hazelnuts, his D.O.B. is the springtime) and submit to a physical evaluation.
The verdict? Ron has strep throat. An equally surly doctor, who is fond of Ron's staidness, blows the sawdust from Ron's ear and sends him on his way with a prescription for Penicillin.
Ann returns later that day with the rest of Ron's test results. His chlorestoral is good, his blood pressure is fine, but his potassium needs some work. Ron, however, isn't looking for dietary recommendations. "I live the way I live, I eat the way I eat, and I'll die the way I'll die," he proclaims. Ann tells Ron that, while oddly poetic, his words are now selfish. He isn't alone anymore — he is now connected to a woman and children who love him, and whom he loves in return. Eat a banana, Ann says, for their sake.
Best line of the night: Sometimes words can only do so much. Watching Ron Swanson try to eat a banana defies explanation — and is completely amazing.
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Actor Russell Crowe has been turning down high-profiled parts left and right since his Oscar-winning turn as Maximus in Gladiator, leaving many studio executive scratching their heads. Well, here's the reason why. He'll make his debut as director, screenwriter, producer and, of course, also star in The Long Green Shore, a film about the Australian involvement in World War II. Based on a novel of the same name, the story centers on an Australian battalion whose orders are to beat back the retreating Japanese, after the Germans have already surrendered. Upon arriving on the beaches of New Guinea, they find both American and Japanese corpses strewn all over, evidence of a bloody battle recently fought. Pushed by a hard-nosed commander, the battalion presses on to engage battle with starving and inevitably beaten Japanese soldiers. Also in the novel, the Australian soldiers wax philosophical about their mission and the obligations to fight when there's no clear-cut reason to. I guess when you're a big time actor and want to direct, picking an epic subject close to your heart with lots of battle scenes is the surest way to an Oscar (i.e. Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner). But word of advice, Russell: Don't go the Terrence Malick/The Thin Red Line route and bore the hell of out the audience. Please.
A "Chicago" update
The Miramax big-screen adaptation of the high-spirited Bob Fosse musical Chicago has just signed up lead No. 2-Renee Zellweger. She'll join Catherine Zeta-Jones and play Roxie to Zeta-Jones' Velma--the two murdering dancer-singers who take 1930s Chicago by storm. Now, we know Zeta-Jones has extensive singing and dancing experience and is dying to hoof it up on the screen, but Zellweger as a singer-dancer? I thought she could only gained weight for a role. Apparently there's more to this petite blonde who wowed audiences in this year's Bridget Jones' Diary than meets the eye. She showed off her talent to director Rob Marshall, who was suitably impressed and offered her the role. Also in consideration for parts in the film are Kevin Spacey as the sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn and Kathy Bates as Mama Morton, the prison matron who acts as a mediator between the murderesses and the press. This is gonna be fun.
Jackie Chan is back!
Thank God. I was getting a little concerned I hadn't heard about the versatile Asian actor/martial arts master taking on any new parts in a few weeks. He was doing so well there, accepting just about everything under the sun. But alas, here he is again--and all is right in the world. He's finalizing a deal to remake the Jerry Lewis' classic The Bellboy. Actually, this choice for Chan makes sense once you think about it--the bumbling and totally inept hero with a heart of gold, who works at a hotel and gets into any number of hilarious situations. And who can also kick the crap out of you. The script, being worked on as we speak, is apparently set in Las Vegas' MGM Grand Hotel. Chan, who is basking in the limelight with his newest box office record-breaker Rush Hour 2, has been attached to The Bellboy project for about a year. But his most recent keen response will most likely jumpstart the production. Still, I wonder what Jerry would say.
They are all headed for "Madagascar"
"They," meaning Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Madonna and Jason Alexander, and Madagascar meaning the latest animated effort from DreamWorks of which this happy bunch will be lending their vocal talents. The studio has more than proven its mettle in the animation department with this summer's smash success Shrek. So jumping back on the wagon, the execs have come up with a story about four zoo animals who become the target of a bleeding-heart animal rights group, who feel that the animals should be put back into the wild where they belong. They are sent, via ship, to their native homeland, but when the ship capsizes, they find themselves in Madagascar. An interesting choice of locale, but this sounds like an excellent follow up to Shrek.
What will they think of next?
It's been standard practice to take old, forgotten televisions shows and turn them into movies, because apparently it's too difficult to think of original ideas. Well, guess what? Those wacky guys over at MGM have decided to develop some of their more popular movies into compelling television series, including Fame and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. OK, wait, back up a minute. Wasn't Fame already turned into a TV show? And they are trying it again? And, honestly, how can you make a TV series out of It's a Mad...World? As a colleague of mine remarked on hearing this information--are they insane? Indeed, they must be. But, it doesn't end there. MGM is also looking at turning their films The Thomas Crown Affair and Legally Blonde into televised messes. Oh, I'm not being fair. Some of these ideas might actually work. But then again, they may not.