Paul Reuben's oddball character takes some time off, gets in some wacky scrapes.
Directed by John Lee
Starring Paul Reubens, Joe Manganiello, and Alia Shawkat
Initial Review by Chris Cook
And then we got Big Top Pee-wee and the infamous adult theater arrest. Was Pee-wee Herman gone for good? Fast forward to 2010 when we saw the release of a new Pee-wee Herman Show, a stage version of the Playhouse show, and now in 2016, a new original film on Netflix, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.
I’d like to share part of a review posted on the Pee-wee’s Big Holiday Wikipedia page. It says: “The simple story is a little short on laughs, but there’s plenty of sweet wackiness for Pee-wee Herman fans to enjoy.”
Simple story is correct. Short on laughs? Yes, very much so. And there was plenty of wackiness, which most of it I didn’t care for. Is this what I was questioning before? Am I not a Pee-wee Herman fan anymore?
First off, does Paul Reubens age? He must have that Ralph Macchio thing going on. The simple story consists of Pee-wee residing and never leaving (But didn’t he have a Big Adventure?) in the small town of Fairville. He works as a cook, his band breaks up, and then he encounters a chance meeting with Joe Manganiello, the True Blood/Magic Mike actor playing himself. Joe invites Pee-wee to his birthday party in New York and, after hearing the comment “live a little” (which sort of becomes a theme to the movie), Pee-wee decides to take a holiday and leave Fairville.
This is where the film becomes a parallel of Big Adventure. He’s on the road and meets a bunch of wacky characters: a trio of female bank robbers, a farmer with nine daughters, a bus-full of hairstylists, a lady with a flying car (played by Diane Salinger who portrayed Simone, the lady that wanted to go to Paris in Big Adventure), Grizzly Bear Daniels and an Amish community. (I liked the line about how it would take five hours to go two miles.)
When bands release singles, they are typically accompanied by a B-side. If we were to call Pee-wee’s Big Adventure a single, I would call Big Holiday the B-side. Most of the jokes fell flat, the gags (introduction of the farmer’s daughters, signing the waver at the snake place, releasing the air from the balloon [although it was a little funny how all the Amish were doing it later] got stale and repetitive.
Another big issue I had was the lack of nostalgia from earlier Pee-wee material. Sure, he had more wacky contraptions at his house, there was a guy selling gag items, we know that he still doesn’t like snakes, but I wanted more. While he was hitchhiking, how great would it have been if he was picked up by a recently-released from prison Mickey or the trucker who told him the story of Large Marge? After waking up twice on straw, I half-expected to see Jack the hobo sitting next to him (sadly, the actor portraying Jack in Adventure passed in ’03). It did have a few minimal good moments of nostalgia such as the line, “If you take a picture it will last longer,” spoken by the actress who played Simone (she also repeats her line of “Au Revoir” when departing), and of course Pee-wee’s comment that he has “little experience on motorcycles.”
When Pee-wee finally arrives in New York, we get a dumb musical number that did nothing for me. He reaches Joe’s building where the party is, but falls down a well. And how he gets out of the well, WTF? And I found it a little ironic we had a bizarre dream sequence resembling E.T. in the opening, being an earlier movie from this round.
Pee’wee’s Big Holiday did have a solid script, regardless of whether or not I found it funny. We got a basic “road trip” story and a variety of supporting characters. Compared to his 1985 Adventure, this one simply fell flat and lacked the charm in recapturing the joy of the Pee-wee Herman character. I apparently grew up, but I’ll still give this a C-