Pee-wee Herman makes a triumphant return in PEE-WEE'S BIG HOLIDAY, which in all honestly, is basically a retooling of PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE. Produced exclusively for Netflix (by Judd Apatow) the new movie recaptures the charm and innocence of the character, and avoids the divisive adult themes that made the previous film, BIG TOP PEE-WEE miss its mark. Pee-wee is back and is as loveable as ever. With his childish arrogance and heart of gold, he leaps off the screen as though time stood still. There's always been an wonderful underlying creepiness to the character, and the fact that he hasn't appeared to have aged in over 20 years is what's creepiest of all. Even with an inch of make-up, airbrushing and neck pins (seriously, check this out), Reuben's reprises the role with perfection and hasn't lost his touch.
When Hollywood actor Joe Manganiello rides into Pee-Wee's hometown the two of them form an instant bromance. Joe invites Pee-wee to his birthday party in New York and insists that he travel by road to discover the world and “live a little”. And so begins a cross-country adventure that, while very familiar, is full of oddities and hilarity.
Pee-wee's first film is an undeniable masterpiece of absurdist comedy. It was unlike anything that had come before it and Pee-wee's outrageous persona was unique and fresh. The strength of that movie was Tim Burton's direction. His high-concept fantasy stylings presented a child-like world that complimented Pee-wee's man-child ways. And so where PEE-WEE'S BIG HOLIDAY lacks in fantasy production aesthetics, it makes up for in absurdity. The film forewarns the audience of its senseless intentions with an opening scene that will raise eyebrows and confuse people. It's a smart kick-off that sets the bar for all of the oddity and lunacy that follows.
The chemistry between Reubens and Manganiello is strong and Manganiello casts aside his rugged reputation and embraces his inner-child. His was an unlikely piece of casting, but clearly a smart one. The rest of the cast are serviceable, although the rest of the support characters are sporadic and randomly placed. Much of Pee-wee's journey is structured in blocks. Each scenario is a means to the next, with all of the various encounters acting as stepping stones to the final act. A couple of these scenes miss the mark, but most of them work. It's fun.
The fan in me wishes that the narrative had taken a less recycled direction, but the uber-fan in me is overjoyed to have Pee-wee back. It doesn't matter that the movie retraces familiar ground. The comedy is still on-point and the loveable characteristics are as effective as ever. Netflix seems to be the perfect destination for a movie like this, and with any luck it will lead to a few more instalments. PEE-WEE'S BIG HOLIDAY is a fun and fanciful family film that will welcome a new generation of fans while embracing the legions of long-standing ones. Welcome back old friend.