It has been way too long since we've seen Pee-Wee Herman in a movie.
One of the unexpected pleasures of the last decade has been seeing the return of Pee-Wee to his rightful place in pop culture. I was sure when Paul Reuben was arrested in the early '90s that he had successfully killed his most famous creation, and for a while, it seemed like that was the case. I suspect Reuben was happy to see Pee-Wee go at that point. When I met him in that era, he seemed like he was running from the character. He couldn't have looked any less like Pee-Wee with his long hair and his full beard and mustache, and he got visibly irritated when people would walk up to him and talk to him about Pee-Wee.
When we sat down with him to talk about his return to the character, he seemed like a completely different human being. At some point, Reuben not only made peace with the legacy of Pee-Wee Herman, he embraced it, and the end result has been a lovely second act for both the actor and the character. I'm glad, too, because I think Pee-Wee's Playhouse remains one of the great accomplishments in children's programming, and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure is one of those films that gets better as you look back at it because you can see just how much it got right and how effortless Tim Burton and Reuben made it look.
It is genuinely exciting to see a trailer for a new Pee-Wee movie, and right away, it looks like we are back in familiar and quite welcome territory. I like that the Playhouse is its own world, and the movies with Pee-Wee each seem to take place in their own unique world. Big Top Pee-Wee isn't a sequel to Pee-Wee's Big Adventure in any way. It's just another film that happens to star that same character, but in a totally different setting, with a totally different supporting cast. It appears the same is true of Pee-Wee's Big Holiday, and while he's living in a house that's similar to the one from Big Adventure, I'm going to guess that once again, this is its own pocket universe.
This film is premiering at the SXSW film festival this year, and will arrive on Netflix on March 18th. I. Can't. Wait.