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PEE WEE'S BIG HOLIDAY & BIG ADVENTURE

Judd Apatow produces Pee-Wee Herman in a comeback vehicle that seems like there was no BIG ADVENTURE at all
Pee-Wee Herman always did have gobs of makeup to add to a perpetual youthful effect. Now it's covering up the opposite. Ironically, within this story, Pee Wee's been hanging around his perfect "Mayberry" type town a bit too long (called Fairville)... But what exactly did he do in the city porn theater no one's allowed to talk about? Okay, that was on purpose to get the comic's infamous Waterloo out of the way, up front. And while Pee-Wee left us, actor Paul Reubens would appear now and again, outright stealing the intentionally cheesy original BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER movie, proving he could still be funny... In fact, his five-second death scene might have been the only laugh in the movie, but it's sure a whopper!

He did get outta town
And going much further back, Paul Reuben's iconic Pee-Wee wasn't always intended for kids and kids only. As one of the premiere up-in-coming stars of The Groundlings Improv Group, Pee-Wee was a cult stand-up routine for adults before kids even knew about him... And as an actor, Reubens appeared in cult flicks like CHEECH & CHONG'S NEXT MOVIE (big part) and THE BLUES BROTHERS (bit part) along the way... He was sort of a cross between Andy Kaufman (in taking his Pee-Wee name so seriously, he's cast using it and not his own) and... Howdy Doody.

Dead End Job
And that first brilliant 1986 film, PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, directed by a just-starting Tim Burton, is made for all ages. The magical humor is as ironic and full of innuendos as it's silly and readymade for a child's belly-laughter. The first five minutes (after the bike race in Frace), as Herman greets the morning in a house with more contraptions to set him on his day than Wile E. Coyote had to stop The Roadrunner, have now been purposely brought up a notch, which goes way overboard with Pee-Wee riding a toy car down the street, jamming through a neighbor's house for breakfast before leaping onto a skateboard and then, once again, shunning another cute young girl (like he did Elizabeth Daily) who really wants him, bad. Are we supposed to realize something about Pee Wee at this point? Political Correctness has taken over, so now, Pee Wee can be a loner for a reason, right? And in the very, very beginning, following a dream, banal and vapid compared to the bike race in BIG ADVENTURE, Pee-Wee bids farewell to a sexy alien who must get "home," and he wakes up repeating her mantra, which becomes both the plot and problem of PEE WEE'S BIG HOLIDAY where, at work at a diner, after his young bandmates have outgrown him (Herman, like James Bond, never seems to age), he's depended on to reluctantly stick around and help his diner boss before finding freedom through motivated lectures from new pal Joe Manganiello.

Joe Long Last Name
For some reason, the MAGIC MIKE stud plays himself, happening upon the man-child who definitely needs a break from the routine and thus, once Mike leaves, telling Pee-Wee to show up at his penthouse birthday party in Manhattan on a certain time and date, a new journey is underway, and, at this point, obvious that HOLIDAY won't touch the classic BIG ADVENTURE, it's already surpassed the downright embarrassing BIG TOP PEE WEE, which jumped the shark more than his public yanking.

A Returning Actor, not character, in Diane Salinger
What's really strange is how much we're reminded about our hero never having ventured outside the county line... when that's what BIG ADVENTURE was all about: leaving town and going on a long hard road to find his cherished bike that was supposedly kept in the basement at the Texas Alamo. Along the way, Herman winds up just about everywhere, meets everyone, even winds up in a cameo in a motion picture starring James Brolin as action-character P.W. Herman ("Paging Mr. Herman" has become an iconic pop culture line). So are we now supposed to have amnesia that none of this ever happened? Is this a brand new Pee Wee? What the hell's going on?! Does the original classic have to die to resurrect a new PWH?

This Scene Blows
Basically, instead of traveling West, HOLIDAY is to "go East, young man." And the Deja Vu continues, story-wise: in the ADVENTURE, he first joins ranks with an escaped convict (Judd Omen), and in HOLIDAY it's taken up an exploitation notch with three sexy bank robbing vixens using Pee-Wee as a getaway; one of which (the shyest and cutest) is nicknamed Freckles but her real name is also his own, providing an instant, mutual crush while the tough leader of the gang (resembling Zane Buzby) keeps returning (with her girls) to grind Pee Wee's holiday, including showing up at an Amish community, planning to steal their horse and carriage!

For a movie executive produced (and basically legitimized) by the usually controversial Judd Apatow, he obviously had a task of putting Pee-Wee back on the map for adults, making this once-hilarious man-child not just a diminished children's show host, who happens to be more weird and creative than most of his kind, but a comeback kid the grownups can like again as well (mind you, some of those adults were kids when PEE WEE'S PLAYHOUSE reigned). Too bad there aren't enough funny moments during this bonafide road movie, despite Pee-Wee having a pseudo reunion with the French-yearning Cafe Waitress, played by J.D.'s daughter, Diane Salinger, here as a fancy rich woman flying a tiny airplane that causes Pee-Wee to get into a borderline dangerous entanglement where he much too easily escapes (also in other scenes) using a strange high-pitched scream, almost like a dog whistle that can actually be heard, killing all suspense and, believe it or not, the Burton original did have nail-biting moments, and Pee-Wee was certainly on a rough road instead of just an intentionally-ridiculous one, like here... All the weirdness that made Herman so special on the big screen and television now feels downright forced, and Pee-Wee himself merely seems part of the process as opposed to an oddball going against the grain... For now, the proverbial grain is a bit too... askew... And if everything is weird, nothing is weird... Or something of that nature...

Breasty Namesake
So when Pee-Wee finally makes it to New York, he and his much-too-beloved sidekick Joe Manganiello reunite after an 11th hour problem. While having chemistry, the opposites-attract duo lack prior screen-time to legitimize their deep-rooted, intense and, well, kinda creepy kinship.

On The Road
Other moments that don't work seem like Paul Reuben's Groundling skits that are (or were) purposefully long; like blowing up a balloon and letting it squeal out slowly, making for what feels like an endless scene. Any Improv group, despite turning-out some great actors and actresses that star in worthy vehicles later on; without the cushion of television or cinema celluloid, are, as many have noted in private conversations to yours truly, tedious and torturous, on purpose, for the stage is (or, was) their experimental testing-ground that merely existed to catapult them to either stardom or random character-work i.e. an occupation in Hollywood. What Tim Burton did successfully was give us just enough Pee-Wee to equal his non-stop ADVENTURE, meshing character and action together. And herein, one scene concerning an RV of black hairstylists is perhaps the unfunniest five minutes in history while other scenes also drag on, and on and on... Even one part inside a white trash pitstop that harbors a let-down of cheap museum oddities and promotes a giant snake, that could have been HOLIDAY's own "Large Marge," winds up empty-handed... Meanwhile, writers John Rust (who directed), Reubens and Executive Producer/mini-Mogul Apatow lets his man-child go a bit far on what often seem like inside jokes that aren't even worth getting...

PWH
Perhaps in the near-future, the Millennial John Hughes of the no-hold-barred teen era can let Pee-Wee hang around his (Judd's) own gang of party-goers, so that we can see a difference between what's popular now, and what was offbeat way back when. That would be a logical collision where both actor and director (Judd should direct next time, if there is a next time) can combine their styles. This didn't feel like either an Apatow or Herman production, making their HOLIDAY a bland BIG ADVENTURE with another name, and, at times, while kinda relaxing and fun despite itself, can be downright nightmarish.

Pee-Wee Returns
RATINGS:
PEE WEE'S BIG HOLIDAY: **
PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE: ****
SOME TRIVIA: As mentioned in the review, Diane Salinger, who played Simone, Pee-Wee's waitress friend who wanted to go to France and had a boyfriend as large as the T-Rex they spend the night in, plays a different character here, an eccentric pilot named Penny King, but her last words to Pee-Wee are, like Simone's, "Au Revoir", which means "Goodbye" in French... And it's the same word spoken by the female Pee-Wee, who, along with the book club girl, is the replacement for Elizabeth Daily's Dottie i.e. pretty girls Pee-Wee dodges while, in this case, he chooses a big muscular dude to hang with • As the razzed-up DJ at Joe's party, David Arquette puts in a cameo, and yes... who cares? Answer: No one • Although this is obviously a brand new Pee-Wee who never experienced the original BIG ADVENTURE since he talks about never having left his town, Fairville, he does bring up being scared to ride a motorcycle, which made him crash in the original • One major difference of the old Pee-Wee to the new one is he didn't have a job before, and now he's a workaholic, pretty much, until Joe tells him he's working too hard... but after his BIG HOLIDAY he goes back to toiling away the hours • While the original had director Tim Burton's favorite medium as special effects in the Ray Harryhausen style stop-motion animation, the effects here, despite being thirty years later, are a bit cheap and early-90's looking, perhaps on purpose since that's when Pee-Wee pretty much... vanished • In BIG ADVENTURE, while on a payphone in Texas, Pee-Wee kickstarts a popular Texas song "The Yellow Rose of Texas" to be finished quickly by people walking around, while in BIG HOLIDAY New York he breaks into an entire song, liken to a musical; just another way of attempting to "one-up" (or pay homage to) the Tim Burton classic • As most know, this movie was made for, and by, and is streaming on Netflix along with the much better PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, which should be viewed first if you haven't seen it: But as sort of mentioned in the review, stay clear of the BIG ADVENTURE follow-up BIG TOP PEE WEE, which went all over the place, had no purpose, and made us believe a normal sized Kris Kristofferson could bang a literally one-inch-tall Susan Tyrrell... just one of many problems of that stuffed turkey.
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