Some people really love Pee-wee Herman. Some people don’t like Pee-wee Herman. Then there are people like me who really like Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, admire Pee-wee’s Playhouse, but don’t really care much about that character one way or another. Though, while watching Pee-wee Herman (aka Paul Rubens) in his new film, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday (which debuts on Netflix tomorrow), yeah, it was a little difficult to stop reminding myself that manchild Pee-wee Herman is played by a 63-year-old man. He looks good though. It still feels like Pee-wee Herman. What an odd thing.
It is a little weird that we just accept Pee-wee Herman as a distinct, separate human being. Yes, actors will play a certain role multiple times. But could you imagine if, once Creed was done filming, Sylvester Stallone just continued going about his day as Rocky Balboa? Then he did more movies as Rocky, but none of the movies had anything to do with the previous films? And he was billed as “Rocky”? Truthfully, I guess I’d be okay with that. Whatever!
When I showed up to the screening of Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, I was given a letter written by Rocky Pee-wee himself, asking not to reveal two things about the movie – which are pretty much the only plot points of an entire movie with not a whole lot of plot. It would be like reading a letter that said:
Thank you for attending this screening of Smokey and the Bandit. When you write about it, please do not mention there’s any kind of car chases involved.
So, here we are! What would everyone like to talk about? I will mention that when Pee-wee and Joe Manganiello are on screen together, there’s a real cinematic magic between them. I mean that! It’s almost as if Joe Manganiello has been waiting his whole life to be in a Pee-wee Herman movie and now his dream has come true. It’s at this point I’d mention whom Manganiello is playing, but that was one of the plot points I was asked not to mention. Next, I’d probably mention what Pee-wee and Manganiello talk about – a conversation that leads to the entire plot of this movie – but that, too, is supposed to remain a secret. And the thing is, I realize all of this seems so mysterious! But by keeping all of this pretty benign information secret, it’s probably going to be disappointing when you see Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, if you’re looking for some sort of grand mystery. So don’t do that. Even though the filmmakers are being mysterious, don’t get that in your head. There’s no mystery.
Anyway, the gist is Pee-wee goes on a road trip and meets a whole host of kooky characters. Some of the kooky characters are fun! Other kooky characters are kind of annoying and I found myself just waiting for that set of kooky characters to leave so some new ones would replace then, which eventually happens every time.
Here’s the thing: If you like Pee-wee Herman, you will probably like this movie, co-written by Reubens and Love star Paul Rust and directed by Wonder Showzen vet John Lee. If you’re a huge fan of Tim Burton’s work from the 1980s, you probably won’t like this movie quite as much as the people who just love Pee-wee. The other thing: If you have Netflix, yes, this is worth watching. Everything involving Pee-wee and Joe Manganiello is worth seeing and, whatever, it’s 90 minutes of your time – and if you you already have Netflix, there’s no cost. I’d have a harder time recommending Pee-wee’s Big Holiday if you had to leave your home and pay money to see it. But, you don’t!
Here’s the shorter version: Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is fine and if you like Pee-wee Herman and you’re bored, then you should watch it.
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.