Top critical review
A film for fans only.
on April 19, 2015
Pee Wee's Big Adventure(released Aug/85)stars,among others,Pee-wee Herman,Elizabeth Daily and Mark Holton.Herman,already well known,extrapolated his TV character into a full length film.I remember taking my(then)12 year old daughter to see it in its original release.This version on DVD is NOT the original theatrical version.The original was much slower and ponderous due to scenes that went on far too long.Scenes like Pee Wee meeting the con and driving off the cliff;it seemed like the car would never land.Then there was his journey to Texas and meeting the waitress and returning back home.It dragged terribly.This newer released version has(thankfully)trimmed down those weak spots,and others,and as a result the film moves along much better.....but.... .
The story itself opens as Pee Wee wakes up for yet another day.Pee Wee of course playing his man/child role.We are introduced to his home in its entirety and his prized possession out back in a hidden room....his bicycle.Everything is totally 50s/60s kitsch.That bike would have been every boys dream back in that era.As he roles out we are then introduced to his"enemy" Francis.It is Francis's birthday and he covets Pee Wees ride.The two have a typical kid-like verbal interaction,which Pee sloughs off and then rides away from.
While shopping, Pee Wees bike is stolen.He reports it to the police but they can do nothing.He then recalls his earlier interaction with Francis and confronts him in his own home,in his huge "bath tub".Francis denies any involvement and Francis' father forces the two to make up,before Pee Wee leaves empty handed.That night Pee Wee round's up all his friends to create a search party,but his growing impatience gets the better of him and the meeting breaks up before it really gets going.Pee,despondent,wanders the streets in a rain storm,and ends up at a fortune tellers.An obvious fake,she tells him his bike is in the basement of the Alamo in San Antonio,Texas.Pee hits the road.
His first pick up is with an escaping con in a convertible.While driving at night Pee Wee drives over a cliff, but they end up floating gently to a road below due to the wind billowing in the retractable top.The con leaves Pee Wee at the roadside in the dark.A truck soon pulls up driven by one Large Marge.She drops him at a diner and he tells the waitress that Marge sent him.The room goes silent.It seems Marge was a former driver that was killed exactly 10 years before! A waitress takes a shine to Pee Wee and after Pee Wee spends a shift washing dishes(the fortune teller took his wallet),she and Pee Wee watch the sun come up inside the mouth of a life sized dinosaur in front of the truck stop.They part quickly when her boyfriend puts the chase on Pee Wee.He hops on to a train and ends up in San Antonio.He gets to the Alamo but is forced to endure a rather long tour of it with a group of others.At the end he finally gets to ask his question about the basement,but he is met with laughter from everyone as he finds out there is no basement.
Pee Wee goes to the bus depot and runs into the waitress who is off to Paris to pursue her dream there.However he also runs into the waitresses' boyfriend who gives chase.They end up at a rodeo where Pee Wee,in disguise,is forced to ride a bull.He is thrown off and is conked out.When he awakens he is asked what he remembers and he says "the alamo",to the shouts of all the Texans in the immediate vicinity.Next he winds up walking into a bikers bar and using the phone.The place is noisy and when he tries to hush the patrons they turn on him and throw him out.When he accidentally knocks over a neatly lined row of bikes they go crazy.They pull him into the bar and threaten his life.Pee Wee comes up with a "last request".He borrows a Mexican Americans big heeled white shoes and does his Pee Wee dance to the song "Tequila".After this they all become fast friends and allow him to drive away on one of their bikes.No sooner is he up and running when he careens through a huge sign and wipes out.He is taken to the hospital and upon awakening sees his bike on TV presented to a child star in Hollywood.Off he goes.
He sneaks onto the lot and disguises himself to become an extra in a scene in which his bike is involved.At the opportune moment he steals the bike and he suddenly finds the entire studio security is after him.After a long chase he finally escapes.Outside he rides by a pet shop which is on fire.Animal lover that he is,Pee Wee MUST stop and rescue them.As he runs in and out with each pet, he continually passes,and passes up,the snake terrarium.Finally,when all others are out,Pee Wee finally has to grab the snakes.Outside he faints and falls to the ground.The police and firefighters show up.The firemen think he is a hero, but the cops arrest him and take him to the Warner's studio head.They realize now that Pee Wee is the owner and think his "adventure" would make a great movie,which he agrees to.
The film ends as Pee Wee has all the friends he has met along the way to finding his bike,out for the premiere of his film,at a drive-in(we get to see snippets of the newly made picture which has James Brolin as Pee Wee and Morgan Fairchild as his girlfriend). It all ends with Francis getting ejected off Pee Wees bike seat in front of the attending press, and he and his girlfriend Dottie riding off together.
The film,as originally seen,would have gotten barely a 3 star rating,as slow as it was.This one has been improved flow-wise,but it cannot gloss over everything.The film is really for die hard fans of the Herman-meister.There are no real laugh-out- loud,knee slapping scenes in this film.You also have to be able to accept his character;the man/boy child,living a in a 50s/60s kitsch filled home and with the conversational and reactional range of an 8-10 year old.Being a fan of Reubens I accepted it,as well as many,many others.And he made it work wonderfully in his successful TV show of the late 80s.That's where he and his character really shone.But I thought then,and I still do now,that stretching that concept to a movie length feature was pushing it far beyond its possibilities.The only thing that held this film together was his character.Without him in ANY scene,it wouldn't work one iota.The only saving grace,as we can now look back on,was that Reubens,thankfully,kept true to his character.The boy/man child thing had to be sexless.He had to act that under-age/pre puberty line in order for it to work.His rejection of his girlfriend Dottie was right on and typical of where his character was age and thinking wise.Unfortunately, Reubens seemed afterwards to suddenly have a memory malfunction.He then created another but total disaster of a film in his next Big Top.He crossed that uncrossable line and the film fell totally flat.It was just plain creepy and unwatchable to see a sexually driven Pee Wee.Especially when juxtaposing it with his concurrently running Playhouse show with children.
Technically speaking the film is in its w/s a/r of 1:85:1 and is clear and crisp.It has many extras including commentary by the director and Ruebens, and deleted scenes.
All in all while much better than the original theatrical version,the film is still a curiosity at best.And being a Herman fan I will give it 3-3 1/2 stars thsi time around.But even it's now more streamlined appearance doesn't make its entire concept any better than it was in the beginning.This is a 30 minute TV show stretched to just over three times what it should be.For fans only.Btw,they need to release this in the original theatrical version AND this version.