Tim Burton’s adaptation of the comedy eighties icon is still a film that’s an acquired taste all things considered. Pee Wee begins as a slightly grating presence, but his enthusiasm eventually wins you over. Even to this day easing in to “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” is a fun and unique fantasy film with Pee Wee Herman managing to entertain with his charismatic presence, unusual voice, and still excellent dance sequence to “Tequila” in a biker bar. I remember just about every kid in the late eighties would at one point imitate Pee Wee’s dance on the pool table.
Pee Wee Herman is a simple man who spends his days living with his dog Speck in a house devised of Rube Goldberg machines that help his lifestyle as a bachelor. His only prized possession is his bike. After refusing to sell it to his rich spoiled neighbor Francis, the bike is stolen by someone while visiting his girlfriend Dottie. Now, Pee Wee is on the search for his bicycle, traveling around the country to find out who stole his beloved bike, and why. Paul Reubens is a lot of fun as his trademark character, clearly improvising in some scenes, while also lending the character some interesting dimensions as the comedy transforms in to a road trip adventure.
“Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” is a film that gives us a look at director Tim Burton before he transformed in to a darker visionary. Here he’s lighter, and more whimsical, while also injecting trademark dark fantasy in brief but very entertaining instances. Burton just seems to understand Paul Reubens’ titular hero, and that makes “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” a surreal and entertaining fantasy. Burton demonstrates his knack for building seemingly dynamic meta-worlds inside our own world, depicting Pee Wee’s own journey as exciting, harrowing, and often times scary. Whether it’s traveling to the Alamo, or coming face to face with an undead trucker haunting the roads, Pee Wee is always far from home, even though he’s always on Earth.
Burton and Reubens concoct plenty of brutally funny moments including Pee Wee saving a burning pet store, an angry child star rating during a film shoot, and Pee Wee’s confrontation with his neighbor Francis, which introduced the world to his famous one-liner “I know you are, but what am I?” The joint team of Burton, Danny Elfman’s beautiful score, and Pee Wee’s infectious attitude pave “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” as a one of a kind adventure, one that’s teeming with appeal to any audience and promises a good laugh or two.