In the 80s and early 90s and you wanted to have a wacky fun filled time there was one man you could always rely on. Pee Wee Herman.
He provided kids with a haven of silly crazy, nonsense, where anything could happen and it often did. One moment that always sticks in the mind is when Pee Wee married his bowl of fruit salad. Here’s the theme song, you can get it stuck in your head too.
It’s been 28 years since the last cinematic outing of everyone’s favourite man child. In the last installment he went to work in a circus in Big Top Pee Wee, which was somewhat of a let down after the triumphant Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and the subsequent TV series Pee Wee’s Playhouse.
As a big fan of zany nonsense, I loved Pee Wee as a child, and I still believe Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (which shall henceforth be called PWBA) to be one of the greatest kids films and one of the best of the director, Tim Burton’s.
So, as you might imagine when I heard there was going to be a new Pee Wee movie that was going to involve Judd Apatow I was pretty excited. So, once the morning of 18th March finally rolled around, I stayed in my pyjamas, poured myself some cereal, and pretended I was 7 years old again as I turned on Netflix for something I have been waiting for for a long time.
The plot starts off with Pee Wee (according to the credits, Pee Wee plays himself, but really it’s Paul Rubens) loves his home town of Fairville, CA. so much that he has never left, and has no intention of ever leaving to explore the big wide world. However, one day a handsome cool stranger walks into the diner where Pee Wee works as a chef (Joe Manganiello, who plays himself with great humour) and they immediately hit if off and become BFFs. So much so that Joe invites Pee Wee to his birthday party. In New York. In 5 days time!
After some advice not to just get a plane and go cross country, Pee Wee takes the plunge and sets off on an adventure of a lifetime.
Along the way he conveniently meets a ragtag collection of characters who both help and hinder our plucky hero along the way, including a travelling salesman, a farmer and his nine daughters, an Amish community, and a gang of female thieves on the run.
If you’ve ever seen PWBA then this might sound a little familiar, just replace birthday party for stolen bike and you pretty much have the same story with new characters. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, out of the slew of remakes and reboots of famous franchises over the last few years the best ones have essentially followed the format of the original movie (Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I’m looking at you!).
The jokes are hilariously bad, if you love a good dad joke, then you’ll happily chuckle away throughout the film. There’s a great use of slapstick humour as well, an art form I feel is sadly lacking these days. The movie starts off with a beautifully orchestrated Rube Goldberg machine that involves the entire community helping Pee Wee on his way to work.
The plot bounces along with a good pace, and none of the supporting characters feel like they overstay their welcome, despite the long list of cameos there is only one true star of this picture. Pee Wee himself.
Rubens manages to bring his famed Character back to life with a great energy for a man of over 60. Pee Wee feels like his good old self, though I suspect Rubens may have farmed out some of the more strenuous stunts to a team of stunt Pee Wees. He carries the film through to the finale with all the adorable naive aplomb you’ve come to expect.
Even though I was thrilled with the silly, slapstick humour I think my main problem with the film was the feeling that it couldn’t quite escape the shadow of PWBA, although many reboots have made use of old formats, they’ve been able to update them enough that they become fresh, unfortunately there just wasn’t enough changes from PWBA for me to fully get it out of my mind, and all I could do was compare it throughout my viewing. Along with the lack of originality it sometimes the wacky, zaniness that comes with Pee Wee felt a little forced, like they had to do it because it worked before. PWBA, although similar, always made sense within the world that was created around and by Pee Wee. I never quite got that same feeling in Big Holiday.
I did enjoy the movie on the whole, and this will definitely help to keep the kids quiet on a Saturday morning. For those of slightly older fans, however, I would make sure to put any other Pee Wee incarnations out of your head before watching and just take the movie for what it is; a daft romp about a man child exploring and discovering a big wide world in the best way that he can. By making friend with everyone he meets.