Pee Wee fans have been waiting for this for… What… Thirty years now?
Now, I am not one to espouse that any gigantic internet company is merely out to put up a bunch of money and create something incredible merely because a bunch of generation Xers are going to have a nostalgic overload at the mere idea of it… Nor do I think that they will put up ENOUGH money to do it, and then digitally alter the protagonists face so that he feels like he never left the beautiful body, personality, and character of our youth… Nor do I think that they would offer up complete creative control to this man, a genius in many aspects, to create the film that he wanted to make that would pay reverence to his character (as a human being and his character creation – see what I did there?) and reverence to his legions of fans and new armies of little screen-drone children of the next generation…
But they’ve done it.
Pee-Wee’s big holiday is a triumphant, fun return to the screen that was an absolute pleasure to experience. It tugged at all of my emotional nostalgia strings to leave me a blubbering puppet by the end. I literally watched it twice in a row, and then subsequently a few more times throughout the week. I loved the little cameos throughout the film of the various actors that I’ve come to know and love throughout Reubens’ Pee-Wee universe (where were you Larry Fishburne??!) and the brilliant writing that both left my kids in awe and myself cracking up at the adult winks throughout – not the least of which was the horror when the police showed up at the motel. I probably laughed for a solid five minutes every time Pee Wee screamed, and the weird postmodern manhole sequence was perfect. A truly great movie, if only for the fact that Reubens is back and doing what he loves. I hope there are a few more films contracted with this team.
Some of the reviewers for the film dissed it for not being new enough and being just a different spin on Reubens’ comedic Quioxtian road-comedy. They’re right. In many ways Reubens doesn’t do anything new in terms of a structural approach to the work, but the amazing brilliance that Judd Apatow and John Lee bring to the piece actually bring a great deal of bizarre little changes that heighten thousands of little micro-bursts of genius throughout the piece that are, yes, built on the same skeleton of the whole. Essentially, an excellent compromise between what is comfortable and what is fresh.