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Pee-Wee's Big Adventure

Released: 1985

Genre: Comedy

Runtime: 1 hr 32 min

MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Paul Reubens, Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton, Diane Salinger

This delightful adventure follows a bizarre man-child on a cross-country search for his stolen bike. Tim Burton’s directorial debut.

The most fun I've ever had watching a movie.

Review by: MiamiMovieCritic

Added: 8 years ago

If I had to pick my favorite moment from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, it would probably be when Pee-Wee says goodbye to the biker gang, kick-starts his new motorcycle, and crashes into the sign. That's a roll-around-on-the-floor kind of moment, and the movie is filled with them. It's simply the most fun I've ever had watching a movie.

When I was a kid, I wanted to BE Pee-Wee Herman. I wanted to live in his house and slide down a fire pole, emerging fully dressed on the floor below. I wanted a rival like the evilly rich Francis Buxton, with his swimming pool of a bathtub. And, like Francis, I wanted Pee-Wee's bike, that shiny red thing with the magic buttons. Most of all, I just wanted life to be this big, this funny, this full of possibilities.

It was a masterstroke on the part of Paul Reubens to handpick Tim Burton to direct. This is Burton's first feature film, and his darkly comedic, iconoclastic style seems to have emerged from the womb fully formed. Parts of the film are genuinely scary, like when Pee-Wee's bike gets stolen and the mechanical clown laughs at him, or when Large Marge's face explodes in a moment of ghoulish fright. But mostly it's just hilarious.

I can pretty much quote this entire movie. I love the meeting that Pee-Wee calls after the bike gets stolen, where he chastises one of his friends for interrupting ("Is this something you can share with the rest of us, Amazing Larry?"). I love that Pee-Wee thinks there's a basement in the Alamo. I love the hobo he meets while riding the rails, and their endless medley of horrible American folk songs. And I love the movie-within-a-movie, where Pee-Wee can't stop looking at the camera or mouthing along to everyone else's lines. Why aren't there more movies like this? Is it that hard to make a movie with this much imagination and playfulness? Judging by Big Top Pee-Wee, the terrible sequel that Burton took no part in, apparently it is.