Growing up with Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure back in the 80’s, I’ve been a fan of Paul Reuben’s perpetual man-child for most of my life. After his awesome HBO Broadway Special, my hopes of seeing him don the gray suit were rekindled and – with help from Netflix – we finally have the real deal with Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday. Directed by John Lee, produced by Judd Apatow, and filled with a crazy cast, this is quite possibly Pee-Wee’s zaniest, craziest adventure yet.
Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) has settled in a town called Fairville, which looks to be stuck in a 1950-ish era where everyone is happy and friendly. He works as a cook at Dan’s Diner (which reminded heavily of Spongebob Squarepants, another famous man-child character) and loves making others happy with his cooking and antics. One day while at work, some of Pee-Wee’s buddies come along and tell him they can’t continue with the music band they work on due to their lives changing.
This upsets Pee-Wee as it seems his happy little world is being turned upside down and forcing him to change, which is something he doesn’t want to do. While feeling down, actor Joe Manganiello (who plays himself) arrives in town with all of his “alpha-male” physique and charisma (complete with a bad-ass motorcycle) and stops by the diner for a milkshake.
Manganiello introduces himself, and after talking awhile the two learn they have much in common (!). Joe convinces Pee-Wee that he should leave town, take a holiday and live a little while on the way to Joe’s big birthday party in New York. Apprehensive at first, Pee-Wee caves and decides to go for it, which leads him on a grand adventure where he’ll come across three female bank robbers who steal his car, an Amish community, a farmer with nine daughters who all want to marry Pee-Wee, ride in a flying car and more as he tries to make it to Joe’s party while living life in the process.
What’s even more wild about that last bit is that the woman who flies the car is played by none other than Diane Salinger who originally played Simone in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
Despite my love for Pee-Wee I honestly didn’t think I’d enjoy this movie as much as I did – perhaps too much time had passed. But I was surprised at how much fun it was watching one wild misadventure after another unfold. It’s not without its faults, as there are a few times when the comedy feels forced, such as when Pee-Wee slowly lets air out of a balloon while making obnoxious noises and “music” with it to show the Amish how he has fun for starters. Still, the film still has that child-like magic that only the character could bring but also throws in a few dark comedy elements that surprisingly fit well.
Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday may not be the best of his adventures (the 1985 Tim Burton classic will most likely be forever), but it’s definitely better than Big Top Pee-Wee and possibly the wildest of them all. If you’re a child of the 80’s or just looking for something zany and fun to watch, then you’ll want to grab Pee-Wee’s favorite candy, root beer barrels, and some family and friends to go along with you for this big holiday.