Pee-Wee's Big Holiday

Dir: John Lee
Star: Paul Reubens, Joe Manganiello, Tara Buck, Hal Landon Jr.

So much weird here. It has been over 30 years since Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, and in the interim, Reubens has been arrested for public masturbation (pled no contest) and child pornography (plea bargained down to obscenity). Yet he has bounced back, reviving his show on Broadway and now, 28 years after the last Pee-Wee Herman feature, Big Top Pee-Wee, a new film, released through Netflix. Well, "new" is perhaps a bit of a stretch, since storywise, it's basically a rehash of Adventure, with the hero leaving his comfort zone of Fairville on a quest, which brings him into contact with a host of wacky characters in the outside world. The main difference is, here, Pee-Wee is on a mission to attend the birthday party of actor Joe Manganiello in New York. Which might have had more impact on us, if we had ever heard of Joe Manganiello. Sorry, like Pee-wee, we don't watch True Blood and never seen Magic Mike. Still, that's little more than the Macguffin that kicks the plot into action.

The results are spotty, and certainly not as reliably entertaining as Adventure, where Burton seemed to have a more consistent world-view: all the characters there seemed to inhabit the same universe, which isn't the case here. For instance, much though I happily endorse any inspiration from Faster Pussycat, the trio of characters brought over just don't seem a good fit. Other aspects work better, and there are still more than an adequate number of laughs; it's probably us, but the running gag involving Pee-Wee's freakishly high-pitched scream was the one that provided most amusement. Just don't think about the fact that Reubens is now 63, or the entire thing will fall apart in a creepy, Michael Jackson vibe; to Reuben's credit, he makes it easy to forget this aspect, and you can imagine him still playing Pee-Wee at age 80, providing digital effects are able to keep up. Society has clearly changed dramatically over the three decades since, yet like Peter Pan, not just in terms of his agelessness, Pee-Wee will always remain on the outside, looking in and confused by it all.

[March 2016]

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