Pee-wee Herman’s first feature film in almost three decades will do plenty for both nostalgic fans who grew up with the suited man-child’s offbeat brand of comedy and those fresh to Paul Reubens’ gleefully silly shenanigans. It won’t change many hearts or minds, but it’s a warm, familiar hug of a movie that proves Pee-wee still works in cynical 2016.
The movie’s plot revolves around Pee-wee (Reubens) randomly making friends with actor Joe Manganiello, who then invites him to his big birthday bash in New York. As Pee-wee has never left his hometown of Fairville before (or so he claims), he naturally gets caught up in a ton of barmy capers on his way to meet his pal.
Fans of the character will be right at home from minute one; the script, co-written by Reubens as usual, retains the spirited mix of sweet and demented that made him popular with both kids and adults in the first place, and though Reubens is now in his 60s, it’s like he never took off the suit, his various personal controversies hopefully a distant memory now.
Though the plot itself is incredibly simple – and basically just an excuse for Pee-wee to hang out with a conveyor belt of hilarious weirdos, played by a plethora of familiar faces – it’s also energetic and fast-moving, boasting an array of witty visual gags in every scene if you’re capable of getting on-board with the oddball brand of humour. It is worth mentioning, though, that a couple of jokes – especially one involving a balloon – arguably drag on a little too long in the obnoxious way that Family Guy has made a perversely irritating art out of.
It won’t win over nay-sayers, but that’s probably a good thing for those who love the character; it’s not especially ambitious, but Pee-wee’s Big Holiday leaves the door optimistically wide open for more Pee-wee adventures in the future. If you’re a fan, it’s hard to imagine the easy charm and outrageously weirdness of it all not winning you over.
Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is available on Netflix now