Pee-wee's Big Adventure

Dir: Tim Burton
Star: Paul Reubens, Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton, Diane Salinger

Tim Burton's first feature puts front and centre the concept of "the outsider", which was would run through just about all of his work, but does it in a more optimistic fashion than most. Sure, Pee-wee (Reubens) is a strange little man-boy, but he is absolutely confident in himself and his abilities - contrast, say, Edward Scissorhands - and seems rather well-adjusted to society in many ways. Admittedly, this is a world where you can poke your head out of a phone-booth, yell "The stars at night, are big and bright" and everyone around you will stop whatever they're doing and shout "Deep in the heart of Texas!" at you. Or one where a biker-gang can be won over by dancing to Tequila. But that's the appeal in many ways: Pee-wee is a stranger in a strange land, but he fits in there, in a way that's appealing (if totally unrealistic) to all those who feel similarly disconnected from society. There's no denying his heroic qualities: he's more or less fearless and certainly undaunted, doggedly pursuing his stolen bike from Texas to Hollywood.

Despite not having any real familiarity with Pee-wee's Playhouse, the show that spawned this feature, it's still a thoroughly enjoyable slice of imagination, though you certainly need to get in to the appropriate mind-set to appreciate it: any attempt to analyze what happens logically, is doomed to near-instant failure. It's an almost unique mix of childish humour with the borderline cerebral, the climax poking fun at Hollywood's ability to distort events with the movie-in-the-movie of Pee-wee's adventures starring Josh Brolin as a super secret-agent version of the hero. Reubens is, as you'd expect, perfect, and Burton's visual sense is already developed, giving us a world that's both familiar and very, very different from our own. It doesn't all work, and some bits (not least the chase through the Warner Bros. back-lot) certainly go on longer than they probably should, but the great majority works, from satisfactory to near-perfection. Even a cynic like me found himself with a broad grin on his face by the end.

[April 2013]

An unoffical remake of Bicycle Thieves
See also... [Index] [Next] [Previous] [TC Home Page]