PEE WEE'S BIG HOLIDAY
No MPAA Rating, 90 mins.
2016, No MPAA Rating, 90 mins.
Pee-Wee Herman as Himself / Joe Manganiello as Joe Manganiello / Alia Shawkat as Bella / Jessica Pohly as Pepper / Stephanie Beatriz as Freckles
Directed by John Lee / Written by Paul Reubens and Paul Rust
There’s a moment in PEE WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY that solidifies why the character is such an endearing original.
also put a smile on my face that was impossible to wipe off for over 90
Wee (still played by the shockingly ageless Paul Reubens) is in his car
and making his very first pilgrimage outside of the quaint and comfy
confines of his hometown, the appropriately named Fairville.
Pee Wee doesn’t get out much.
In fact, he appears to have never been on vacation before, let
alone outside of his town. He
approaches a controlled intersection, stops, looks up, and in a state of
jubilant, child-like glee screams out, “A traffic light!!!
Just like I’ve seen in National Geographic!”
WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY (a non-theatrically released, Netflix original film)
is – much like its titular man-child character – charmingly carefree,
joyously sweet natured, and yes, frequently and genuinely hysterical.
Watching the film was like having a sublime antidote pour over me
to the puerile and vulgar comedies that wallow in sickeningly mean
spirited cynicism. A week ago
I screened a “comedy” that featured a sequence that had its "heroes"
sprayed with elephant ejaculate while hiding in another elephant’s
vagina...and while enduring that I sheepishly confronted myself and asked, “What the hell is
wrong with the movie world in general?”
I felt good about myself while watching PEE WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY.
Not too many “modern” and “progressive” comedies elicit
such sensations in me these days. Yes,
poor little Pee Wee does have a knack of getting himself – and others
around him – in trouble, but he’s so endlessly appealing as a kind
soul that you’re willing to forgive his guiltless indiscretions and
course, Paul Reubens made Pee Wee Herman a relative household name way, way
back in the 1980’s with a stage act, a TV series, and multiple movies.
The Tim Burton helmed PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE came out 31 years
ago, a fact almost impossible to fathom upon watching PEE WEE’S BIG
HOLIDAY. Reubens is a fairly
ripe 63-years-old, but in some ethereal way – either through some
incredibly advanced and invisible special effects techniques or the
actor’s eerie ability to thwart the aging process – Pee Wee visibly
appears trapped in time. He
looks, acts, and talks precisely the same as he did all those years ago,
maintaining an infectiously goofy level of excited and boyish frivolity.
Pee Wee may not even be an adult, but rather an inner child forever
frozen inside a man’s body. Rather
incredibly considering his advancing years, Reubens triumphantly and
successfully returns to his iconic character without missing a beat;
it’s almost as if he just stepped off of the set of his last film
(1988’s BIG TOP PEE WEE) and just appeared here, ready for action.
new film opens with a wonderfully bizarre re-introduction to the
character…as he’s having a conversation with a tiny big-eyed
extraterrestrial (envisioned with some wonderfully old school
animatronics) that may (or may not be) be some sort of a dream.
But of course it’s a dream, seeing as Pee Wee’s wakes up and
returns to the land of the living. His
entire wake-up routine – utilizing a startling array of wacky and
ingenious props and inventions – is worth the very price of admission
(granted, if you actually paid to see this film).
Pee Wee’s real life, alas, is not as colorfully adventurous as
his dreams. He works a fairly
menial job as a cook at a local diner in Fairville, a city that looks like
its cemented in some sort of strange alter dimension where PLEASANTVILLE-esque
1950’s culture was allowed to continue.
Pee Wee enjoys it nevertheless, but his life is turned upside down
when – OMG! – his bandmates from his singing group The Renegades tell
him that they must focus on schoolwork more and music practice less.
causes Pee Wee to go into panic attack mode.
He simply doesn’t know what to do next.
Fate steps in when “well known actor” Joe Manganiello (played
by, yes, Joe himself), cruises into Fairville and stops by Pee Wee’s
diner. Very soon, Pee Wee discovers that both of them share an amazing
number of things in common, like a passion for milkshakes, bikes,
model making, and root beer barrels (“Best candy in the world!).
Even though, in a rather hysterical bit, Pee Wee has no idea who
Joe is, nor can he even remotely pronounce his name, he takes an instant
liking to him, which the awfully nice Joe reciprocates.
In an act of narcissistic kindness, Joe invites Pee Wee to his big
birthday party in New York (via a ridiculously opulent carded invitation
that he just happens to have in his back pocket and hands him) and insists
that he attends. But…but…Pee
Wee has never been out of Fairville!
The drama continues as he courageously braves America for a long
road trip ahead.
Burton is not back this time in the director’s chair, which
can sometimes be obviously felt throughout PEE WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY, seeing
as the film lacks some of his eccentric brand of visual weirdness.
John Lee, though, competently directs the film, and even though
he’s not as spirited as an innovative visualist as Burton, his low-key
style kind of helps put the spotlight more on Reubens’ performance. As a comeback vehicle, of sorts, after a very long period of
character/series dormancy, this approach is arguably the right one, seeing
as Pee Wee’s agreeably outlandish antics is the real star of this film.
It could also be easily said that seeing this film on a small
screen via Netflix is somewhat disappointing, leaving it somewhat feeling
like it has a demoted direct-to-video vibe throughout.
PEE WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY is wondrously entertaining in terms
of delivering a contagiously delightful madcap romp of the character’s
trek across America to the Big Apple.
One thing that has never changed about the character in this effort
to rebirth him into a new movie adventures is his infallible
ability to celebrate the inherent worth of people and cultures that
he’s not familiar with, which is a solid message for young viewers.
Regardless of whether he comes in contact with, in some cases, a
desperate traveling salesman, a group of traveling hairstylists, an high
society-type heiress, a squad of female bank robbers, or even an Amish
community (the latter which features an insanely funny one-take gag
showing Pee Wee introducing this culture stuck in the past to the modern
wonders of finding amusement in blowing up balloons), Pee Wee's well meaning
acceptance of them shows that he’s an fine and upstanding chap.
undeniable and unstoppable energy solidified my overall enjoyment of this
film. Everything he sees he
giddily approaches with the wide-eyed amazement of a toddler.
I mean, nothing impedes his ability to find awe and wonder in the
most nonchalant of things he encounters, and he soaks up all of his
experiences like a sponge and craves more as the film progresses. PEE WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY is also benefited by a really
self-deprecating performance by Joe Manganiello, who plays a satirized
version of himself that’s part badass/juke-box hitting Fonzie, part
fanboy/geek that likes cool toys and just about anything with sugar in it. The film plays up to their under-the-radar homoerotic
relationship in multiple running jokes (there’s a positively uproarious
fantasy sequence featuring Joe dressed up in his own Pee Wee inspired
suit, prancing and dancing around with wicked glee).
For the most part, their mostly innocent bromance has a feel-good
tenderness. Joe’s a very
good sport. He doesn’t even
care that Pee Wee has never seen (or has even heard of) MAGIC
I felt mentally detoxified after seeing PEE WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY. I can appreciate the unenviable challenge of resurrecting this character after such a long period of movie inactivity, but this new film and Reubens somehow manages to pull it all off with a free-wheeling and inspired casualness that will make die hard fans appreciate it all the more. Sometimes, characters that wallow in constant self-amusement can be off-putting and irritating. Not Pee Wee. Even when he tells a joke regarding how corduroy pillows are making headlines (“Get it? Headlines?!”) and then unstoppably giggles like a schoolgirl at his own punch line…it’s hard not to laugh with and at him. He sees goodness in just about everything and everyone around him, a trait that’s awfully hard to criticize.