Thursday, December 11, 2008

Film Review - "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" (1985)

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
Tim Burton
This is the Burton movie that most people forget about; but after not long ago seeing two of his more recent and acclaimed films, Big Fish and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, I thought, hell, why not revisit the aspergers-stricken pseudo-Goth’s humble beginnings? Though this isn’t the first film he made (he had made two short films prior to this, those being Vincent and Frankenweenie, the latter of which is now rumored to have a full-length adaptation, still from Burton, in the works), but it is his feature-length debut.
Everyone is familiar with Pee-Wee Herman, and, though the character had been used by comedian Paul Ruebens in stand-up acts and the like for many years before this movie, it was Tim Burton’s film that brought the character into the general public’s eye, introduced him to children everywhere, and created a pop-culture icon of the 80’s.
The movie introduces us to Pee-Wee Herman, a beloved (and slightly creepy) man-child whose tricked-out bicycle is his entire life. When this bike is stolen, it turns Pee-Wee’s world upside-down, and so he embarks on an epic cross-country crusade to reclaim what was stolen from him and kick some bad guy butt.
Tim Burton fans, as I said earlier, often forget this movie; for most of them, his Filmography pretty much starts at Beetlejuice. It’s not because this is a bad movie; nay, this movie is seen as one of the greatest ‘family comedies’ of the 80’s, and is looked upon very fondly by people who grew up with it, usually both with nostalgia and with admiration at how well it has held up today. Rather, Timmy just doesn’t seem to know exactly what kind of director he wants to be yet. Sure, it has all the earmarks of a good Burton film – lots of quirkiness and satire, some great and at times surrealistic art direction/set design, some real dang purdy stop-motion, and a kickass score by Danny Elfman – and it’s much more obviously a Tim Burton film than his dreadful Planet of the Apes remake (for which I’m totally convinced that he was just a hired studio goon with no creative control). Tim just has that debut nervousness, and even still, it’s not nearly as bad as it is with most directors; in both quality and comparison with his other works, it’s a lot better than most debuts are.
Paul Ruebens is fucking hilarious as Pee-Wee. I swear to god I’ve almost pissed myself laughing at his acting several times. He’s really the highlight of the film – almost everyone else is just a passing, incidental character (which, frankly, is a good thing, because there’s some really cringe-worthy acting in this movie).
The humor in this movie is varied enough to keep things from getting boring. We’ve got slapstick, dry wit, bizarre and amusing quotables, absurdism… Basically, there’s something for everyone to laugh at. Interestingly enough, the screenplay was co-written by the late great Phil Hartman, so that should be all the indication you need to know that this movie is fairly funny.
The thing I must stress the most is that you shouldn’t be ‘embarrassed’ to watch this because it looks like a silly little children’s film. It’s one of those movies that you can truly find entertaining no matter what age you are, and it marks the first big step in the evolution of one of the most unique, incredible filmmakers to ever grace Hollywood with his presence.
RATING: 9/10

1 comment:

  1. You and I-Mockery have now made me want to see this film, and I have the *vaguest* memories of seeing only a little bit of Pee-Wee's Playhouse when I was a little tot.