Overview: Pee-wee Herman finds himself in a state of restlessness in his sleepy little hometown of Fairville, when actor Joe Manganiello pays the perennial man-child a visit and encourages him to travel across country in order to attend the Hollywood player’s birthday party in New York City. Netflix; 2016; Not Rated; 89 minutes.
Reviving a Legend: Under the careful guidance of collaborative partner and co-producer Judd Apatow, comedian Paul Reubens has finally brought his ever popular and iconic Pee-wee Herman character back to life in what is the third feature film starring the lovable imp. For those who are unfamiliar with the once ubiquitous comic invention, Reubens is still thrilling as Pee-wee, and even as his brief departure from the role in the 1990s has often cast a large shadow over the property’s hey-day on HBO, this latest take on the classic franchise is nothing short of a revival worth celebrating as a quintessential rebirth. Pee-wee is just as immediately appealing as ever, and with the help of co-writer Paul Rust, the film progresses with the very same whimsical clarity and visceral rush that brought Reubens wide-spread acclaim initially in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure in 1985.
Enigmatic Persistence: It might seem antithetical that a character as potentially prone to misconception as Pee-wee undeniably appears at times, but thanks to Reubens and the new film’s impeccably paced script, none of the character’s peculiarities ever become obnoxiously irksome or thematically unsettling. At times, Reubens may cast a cloyingly unsophisticated figure as the perpetual youth, and yet it is in Pee-wee’s naïveté wherein the role truly reaches beyond the boundaries of the theatrical narrative and begins to speak to those viewers willing to indulge any perceived immaturity for the holistic alternative which it actually represents. Pee-wee has always been an enigmatic presence within mainstream popular culture, but in Reubens’ persistence in playing the character without even a whiff of irony, Pee-wee is a man-child unlike those found in other Apatow productions, as Reubens’ has crafted one of the last examples of the dignity inherent to youthful optimism, regardless of any arrested development otherwise intimated by the role.
Still Possessed of Wonder: Over the course of the past thirty-plus years during which Reubens has crafted, worked on, and perfected his most well-known comic creation, Pee-wee has retained a sense of wonder otherwise relegated to childhood. And Pee-wee’s Big Holiday maintains that same sense of wonder that possesses the entire film as directed by John Lee, and the film moves with a fluidity and joy unlike that of most other comedy films. Like James Bobin’s wondrous recreation of Jim Henson’s family friendly The Muppets property in 2011, Reubens has managed to recapture much of the magic from Tim Burton’s miraculous first take on the character for the big screen. Following his surprising collaboration in directing Trainwreck based on the semi-autobiographical screenplay by Amy Schumer, Apatow appears to have found a new calling in shaping other great comic voices into feature film productions, and Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is further proof of just that.
Overall: Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is a marvelous return-to-form from Reubens in the star role which he created nearly three decades ago that returns seemingly un-aged, as the film moves with a rapidity and grace largely unheard of in today’s climate of frequently confrontational studio comedy fare.