First Take: Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday
Details about Paul Reuben‘s big come-back as the perpetually adolescent Pee-Wee Herman were scarce a few weeks ago when I included it on my Top Ten Anticipated Movies of 2016 list. Besides a quick teaser and a constantly shifting menagerie of rumors and name-drops, there was not a whole lot to go on before today when Netflix finally revealed a full trailer for the film. The tight-lipped nature of the project may have some worried; after all, the last time we saw Pee-Wee on the big screen was in 1988’s Big Top Pee-Wee, which was a flop. Since then, more “genuine” scripts for a Pee-Wee Herman film have been “discovered” than The Phantom Menace and The Force Awakens combined!*
Now, after nearly 30 years of speculation, we finally have real concrete details to work with. We have a pretty solid idea of the plot, several of the settings and characters, and more importantly, a sample of the jokes. How does this look to be shaping up? Are we destined for a triumphant return to Big Adventure form, or yet another weeping clown like Big Top?
So here we’ve got the frame work: Pee-Wee lives in a quaint 1950’s-esque town named Fairville, works in a soda-shop and seems to be adored by the townsfolk. A cool customer from out of town arrives and inspires Pee-Wee to finally leave his sheltered small-town life for a vacation to the big city. Of course, this means Pee-Wee is in for some culture shock, and bound to meet lots of colorful characters along the way.
The Hot Take
I like it…with reservations. The vibe the trailer gives is somewhere right in the middle of Big Adventure and Big Top. The town is idyllic and backwards, but also very much part of the real world, much like Big Top. The townsfolk are a little goofy and seem to regard Pee-Wee as totally part of their world, which is much more like Big Adventure. There are some prop-related jokes, but nowhere near the volume of crazy creations as was found in Big Adventure or Playhouse. There are also no zany companions, so we’re almost certainly not in the reality where Playhouse or even Big Adventure took place in. That’s a tad worrisome.
While I would have been much more comforted to have seen the complete wonderland atmosphere of Big Adventure return (and also more weird inventions and side-kicks) I’m somewhat reassured by the tone of the jokes, which seem much more care-free and childlike as compared to the heavy somberness and jaded cynicism of Big Top Pee-Wee’s humor. The sheltered nebbish heads to the big city shtick is very reminiscent of the first movie, and I spotted a few call-backs to the original (Snakes!!!) but this seems to be enough of its own animal at this point. Once again, that can be good or bad. At the end of the day, I was chuckling most of the way through the trailer, so I’m still happy to call this movie one of my most anticipated films of the year.