Paul Reubens barely seems to have aged in this Netflix film, which resurrects the madcap character he played 25 years ago to engaging effect
A lot has changed in the 25 years since Pee-wees Playhouse ended its run on television – and in the whopping 27 since the characters last big-screen appearance in Big Top Pee-wee. Watching the man-childs latest outing, Pee-Wees Big Holiday, however, you wouldnt know it.
Thanks to some digital wizardry, Paul Reubens, who originated the role 33 years ago, appears to have not aged a blip while the candy-colored, merry world director John Lee conjures for the Netflix-produced comedy does a fabulous job of recalling Pee-wees past adventures.
As a result, the film plays like nirvana for Pee-wee fans, who either grew up with or simply admired the beguiling creation, which held a unique hold on pop culture for well over a decade. For newcomers, his appeal might prove elusive: despite producer Judd Apatows involvement, Pee-wees Big Holiday is distinctly retro in tone.
Starting with a dream sequence that seems to anticipate an extraterrestrial element to the storyline that sadly never transpires, Reubens and Paul Rusts screenplay keeps the proceedings earthbound, with Pee-wee stuck in an all-too real rut at the outset of the comedy.
Working as a cook at the local diner in his picture-perfect town of Fairville, Pee-wee appears his sunny self – that is until the all-boy band decides to break up. We need to move on to new things, explains one of his co-members. Devastated, Pee-wee experiences a mini-meltdown, lashing out at his patrons and crying in the kitchen. For fans, the effect is a bit startling: Pee-wees not known for ever shedding his cheery disposition.
Things perk up for Pee-wee with the arrival of Joe Manganiello, playing himself, who rolls in in slow motion (of course) to order a chocolate milkshake. Immediately, Pee-wee is smitten the homoerotic nature of their relationship is a running joke, and kind of sweet.
After bonding over their shared love for root beer barrel candy, Manganiello demands that his new friend attend his upcoming lavish birthday bash in New York City. Pee-wee, relishing the attention, gleefully accepts the invite, agreeing to travel there by vehicle per Manganiellos advice: Three days on the open road is worth more than a lifetime in Fairville.
The madcap journey that follows fails to reach the surreal heights set by Tim Burton in Pee-wees first (and best) big screen outing, 1985s Pee-wees Big Adventure, save for an inspired sequence that sees Pee-wee take to the skies in a flying car.
Still, the many bizarre encounters he makes on his way to the Big Apple are generally amusing, thanks to the game cast (Alia Shawkat makes a lasting impression as a sexy female burglar) and Pee-wees always impressionable nature.
- Pee-wees Big Holiday is streaming now on Netflix.