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Lunch » Tags » Movies » Reviews » Pee-Wee's Big Adventure » User review

A surreal, charming adventure of a man-child. 80%

  • Oct 3, 2012
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.


This movie is about a “man-child” named Pee Wee Herman (Paul Reubens). Pee Wee absolutely loves his custom bike, and another man-child named Francis Buxton (Mark Holton) wants Pee Wee's bike, but Pee Wee rejects all of Francis's fiscal offers. On a day out to the mall, Pee Wee's beloved bike gets stolen, and Pee Wee goes on a surreal adventure to find it. On his adventure, he meets a smorgasbord of interesting people, including a Texan truckstop waitress named Simone that longs to go to France, a violent biker gang in Texas, and an escaped convict named Mickey.


One of the strengths of this movie is the characters. Pee Wee is well-portrayed as a man-child, since he obviously has the mind of a kid, but at the same time, doesn't push it to the point where he's annoying. He's also portrayed as being coherent of the “real” world, but at the same time, has an air of childlike innocence to him. Francis is great as the “opposite” to Pee Wee, as he's a spoiled brat with too much money, and it's pretty surreal to see him as a grown man and still need his dad to settle petty disputes and whatnot. Dotty (Elizabeth Daily) is great as Pee Wee's love interest, and with Pee Wee being the man-child that he is, seems fairly resistant to her attempts at romantic advances.

Even the minor characters are well done and have distinct personalities. One of my favorite “minor” characters is Simone. She's good as the waitress who has greater ambitions since she's afraid to pursue them and gets help from Pee Wee. Similarly, there's a giant man named Andy, whom Simone has a reluctant relationship with, and he provides some good comic relief when he chases Pee Wee after he sees him with Simone. Strangely enough, he bares a strong resemblance to Bluto from the Popeye cartoons.


The acting in this movie was quite good. Everybody did a good job with their roles, and the actors and actresses fit in their roles like keys in a keyhole. Of course, Paul Reubens stole the show as Pee Wee, since you can tell that it's almost like he's made his own alter ego, which makes sense since the Pee Wee character was formed in 1977, so he's had a long time to develop the character like he's a separate person.


What's an adventure comedy film without good humor? Thankfully, the humor in this works well (other than a few parts that fall kinda flat). A scene that I thought was quite funny was when Pee Wee accidentally steps on the toes of a violent biker gang in Texas, and he just acts politely in front of them, not knowing how dangerous they are.

One of the most humorous and most exciting scenes in the movie is near the end, when Pee Wee attempts to get his bike back from the Warner Bros. Studio, which ends up in a grandiose chase scene. In the chase scene, the Warner Bros. security staff go after him and in it, they crash through several movie sets including a Godzilla movie and a Christmas-themed movie. It's quite a surreal thing to see a security officer in a prop boat with Godzilla in Santa's sleigh getting dragged behind.


While this movie isn't the type that's heavily-dependent on special effects, there's some scenes that have some special effects implemented to enhance them. One of the best effects in this movie is the “Large Marge” scene, where Pee Wee is picked up by a female truckdriver, and she tells the story of a horrific truck crash. She makes a face that would feel right at home with Burton's future movies, Beetlejuice and A Nightmare Before Christmas. There's also a scene where Pee Wee dreams of his bike being destroyed by nefarious clowns and of Francis dressed as the devil, and the set designs and makeup for the clowns look like something straight out of Burton's imagination, and they're all well done.


Danny Elfman made the soundtrack for this movie, and he did a marvelous job with it. His compositions fit the moods of each scene so perfectly, and I think some of the best music he did in the movie is for the scene of Pee Wee's nightmare of his bike being destroyed, as it has a pretty dark tone to it, but at the same time, has a slight “whimsical” air to it. Elfman started off on the right foot with this movie, though he'd master his musical craft in Burton's future films like Beetlejuice and his two Batman movies.


This is a classic 80's adventure comedy, and this was a good start for Tim Burton as a movie director. Give this movie a whirl.

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August 11, 2013
I agree with Bill on this one.
October 10, 2012
I love character-driven films and this really fits the bill. Nice way to break down a review.
October 10, 2012
Thanks. This is certainly a move that's deserving of its "classic" status.
More Pee-Wee's Big Adventure reviews
review by . May 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
***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 …
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
David Kozak ()
Ranked #20
I'm a morbid cynic who thinks very, very differently from most other people. Chances are, if the majority says X is the greatest in its category, I'll disagree with that notion, because I tend … more
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