Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985)

In the spirit of having an eclectic collection of reviews, here's an old favorite of mine that I never really get sick of watching. Even the young Baron, Boris Junior, gets a kick out of old Pee-wee. I know actor Paul Reubens has received a lot of controversy over the years for that incident in a porn theatre, but hey, it's not like he's a child molester or something. Anyway, enough of the sordid past, we got a movie review to catch up on.

One of Tim Burton's first movies shows a lot of the imaginative touches that would later flourish in his amazing movies. And we see a lot of the "halloweenishness" that recurs (in a major form in "Sleepy Hollow") with monsters, skulls and ghostly visions afflicting our man-child through his journey.

To the plot. A strange child-like little man called "Pee-Wee Herman" who lives with his dog, "Speck" in a house full of toys, inventions and garish colours, pays particular loving attention to his bike. It's an amazing bike, brimming with all sorts of equipment, secret tricks and defensive weapons! It sort of looks like a girl's bike on steroids, but anyhoo, Pee-Wee loves it.

No sooner do we see how much this bike is adored, than it goes missing and Pee-Wee is devastated. It's more than missing - it's been stolen. His odd collection of friends want to help, but Pee-Wee is steadily going off the deep end. An equally strange, rich, obnoxious fat young man has always coveted the bike and wanted it for his birthday. After a hilarious argument with Pee-Wee, Francis vowed that he would be sorry. But attacking Francis brings nothing to light and after visiting a fortune-teller in despair (who makes up where the bike is - the basement of the alamo) Pee-Wee sets off on his journey. Will he ever find the bike?

There was a sequel to this film, "Big Top Pee-Wee", but it was only a fraction as enjoyable as this one. Pee-Wee was toned down, made more adult and hero-like, not the stubborn, obnoxious, weird, childish character he is here. He likes "Dotty", the bike-shop girl who adores him, but would rather insult her than kiss her. It really is the characters that make this the enjoyable ride that it is. In the course of the "big adventure" Pee-Wee encounters an escaped convict, a truck-driving ghost, a Paris-loving waitress and her giant, Pee-Wee-hating jealous boyfriend, a sardine-breathed hobo, an ever-smiling tourguide at the basement-less Alamo, a gang of bikers, the list goes on and on. It all climaxes in one of the funniest chase scenes I've ever witnessed, but then I'm a sucker for any chase that features a power-boat on wheels, towing Santa and Godzilla in a sleigh as they chase the main hero.

I love the performances of this one, which all hit the right note of necessary over-acting. Everyone seems to be putting one hundred percent into their parts. All the sets have garish colours and the music, by Danny Elfman, has a distinctive Pee-Wee theme running through it that you'll be whistling for weeks. I highly recommend this as a family film that everyone can enjoy on several levels. It's a pity there weren't more Pee-Wee films in this vein, but maybe the enjoyment would have dulled if they became churned out.


© Boris Lugosi 2002.

Review written: 05/20/2002 19:38:41