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"I know you are but what am I?"

  • May 23, 2012
***1/2 out of ****

Paul Reubens might have trudged through his share of media controversy, but with Tim Burton's debut feature "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure", his legacy as a once world famous (instead of infamous) physical comic lives on. This is the best of the crowd when it comes to the misadventures of the titular character that Reubens portrays, Pee-Wee Herman; a young child trapped in the body of a middle-aged adult male. Somehow, Pee-Wee appears to be very wealthy, or at least has enough money to afford all kinds of fun gadgets for his house. One morning's breakfast becomes one of the film's best sequences, as a strange and complex contraption that goes all the way around the kitchen is revealed, soon cracking eggs and squeezing oranges, as well as flipping pancakes onto the ceiling. When the toast pops right out of the toaster, Pee-Wee takes a GIGANTIC knife and spreads jam all over the bread. And that's just the first few minutes. What's to come is even more delightful.

Pee-Wee owns a bike that he loves deeply. One day while in town, it is stolen. His first guess to who committed the crime is another rich man-baby by the name of Francis (Mark Holton), who Pee-Wee attacks in his very wide and very clear bath-tub. Of course, Francis denies Pee-Wee's claims, and he's again on his own to solve the mystery. One night, he emerges from the rainy city streets into the office of a psychic, who makes up a futuristic reading in which the bike is secretly hidden in the basement of the Alamo Museum in Texas. Of course, Pee-Wee believes every last bit of this, and embarks on a long and wild road trip to reclaim his prized possession. On the way there, he crosses paths with escape convicts, rowdy biker gangs in need of a good laugh, angry ex-boyfriends, and phantom truckers. It's a fairly routine and generic plot, but Burton adds a little spice to the solution and comes back with pure gold.

The film is silly, messy, and some could even say it's also uneven. But it's also one of the more entertaining films of its kind that I've seen; not necessarily a "smart" comedy, but an immensely enjoyable one by all means. Oh, and I should also mention that it's a cult classic amongst those who can get past the accusations towards Reubens (which I believe to be quite false). There is an audience for this particular movie, and it's not just amongst the kids that it might appear to be made specifically for. I think that any adult with a sense of imagination (so basically any adult who has enjoyed a Tim Burton film before in their life) will be able to appreciate the stylistic enhancements that bring the material to new heights. It isn't what I'd call a great or perfect film, but I kind of adored it anyways.

I do not consider Paul Reubens to be one of my favorite comic actors, but I respect him nonetheless. Obviously, his man-child act generates mechanical laughs, but never forced ones. There's a charm to the way the actor performs his actions and even his lines, some of which are absolutely hilarious. I cherish the kid in me, so certain moments of comedy both cheap and surprisingly smart struck me as nostalgic and refreshing in terms of evoking something special within me. In that sense, "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" brings out the child in all of us.

Burton is one of the more talented visual filmmakers working today; almost always able to summon great visuals and set design at will but only sometimes a worthwhile story. There's not much philosophy or personal vision to the script of this film, but it was Burton's first feature, so that's OK. He personalizes the visual look of the movie enough, anyways. It wouldn't have been the same without his skillful, elaborate, borderline unforgettable direction. Who can forget the bar dance, the Large Marge scene, or the chase sequences that make up the slightly disappointing but nonetheless exciting final third act? Also, there are dream sequences that look and feel like pure Tim Burton; such as one involving creepy clowns that would give any small child nightmares. As he would continue to do in the movies that followed, Burton exercises a very macabre but playful sense of humor and bewilderment.

I know it's only 90 minutes, but it felt a lot shorter. "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" flies right by because it's one of those movies that had me laughing and grinning (a very silly grin) throughout, at a consistent pace. It is overall a very funny and well-balanced comedy, imperfect to many but held in very high regards by the fans. It's a love it or hate it kind of film and I damn well love it. Never you mind how it ranks amongst Burton's best. Never you mind how it does when compared to the comedy classics of America and beyond. Never you mind about anything. The best and perhaps only way to really enjoy a Tim Burton whimsy comic fantasy is to let yourself go and allow the mind to become one with his world; for to see and understand it is to find the key to limitless entertainment and eternal bliss.

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More Pee-Wee's Big Adventure reviews
review by . October 03, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Back when I was a kid in the 90's, this was one of my favorite movies. Watching this movie again as an adult, this still holds up well. It's only been a few years since I knew that Pee Wee's Big Adventure was Tim Burton's debut as a film maker, and after seeing it, it's really no wonder to me as to why Burton has become an acclaimed film maker in the movie world over the years.      STORY      This movie is about a “man-child” …
Quick Tip by . September 28, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
I got to watch this movie for free recently through Amazon's Instant Video service since it was a "free movie" for Prime members.  I'm glad I invested this evening in watching this.      This movie was one of my favorites as a kid back in the 90's, and after so many years of not seeing it, it's still a joy to see.  This has a lot of charming characters and some good, surreal laughs.  The chase scene between Pee Wee and Warner Bros. security …
Quick Tip by . February 25, 2010
A guilty pleasure that I could watch over and over again. Not sure why this didn't come to mind when I was doing my lists :)
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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