“Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” is definitely an eighties classic. It’s just as funny as it was the year it was released, and still works in a surprisingly timeless way outside of a few wardrobe choices. The reason it still works is two-fold. First of all, the entire film takes place in a very cartoon-like state of reality. There’s nothing about this movie that needs to feel real to be entertaining. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The more exaggerated the better. The second reason why it still works today is because of the director. This was Tim Burton’s first full-length feature film. Yes, that’s right. The director that brought you, “Edward Scissorhands”, “Batman”, and, “Beetlejuice” is behind this bright and comical romp.
The plot is simple, Pee Wee’s bike has been stolen and he’ll stop at nothing to get it back. This is a road movie, meaning the entire film is a journey in the most literal sense of the word. We watch as Pee Wee hitchhikes, walks, hops a train, runs, and finally rides his way out of trouble. What, “Rocky Horror Picture Show” is to some people, this movie is to me. I can quote it, almost word for word. What I find is that when I try to tell people about the merits of this unsung eighties classic, nobody thinks that the film could possibly have anything to offer them. Then I challenge them to watch it with me. As they do, I usually notice something happening.
First there is stubborn resistance. There are crossed arms and furrowed brows. Then a few sarcastic chuckles start to slip through, and about fifteen minutes into the movie, they forget that they ever tried to resist the fun. The movie takes the television show up a notch, letting Pee Wee take his act out on the road. The movie is remarkably populist and incredibly uplifting despite some of its dark nightmare sequences that have the trademark Tim Burton scary clowns and creepy imagery.
I would recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys Tim Burton, Paul Reubens, slapstick, background jokes, cartoons, or eighties movies. All I ask is that you give it a chance, no matter what your preconceptions are going into the viewing. There’s just something universally appealing about it, from the plot to the jokes. It’s very self-referential and makes fun of itself the whole way through. Add that to the numerous cameos, highly stylized Tim Burton look of the film, and Danny Elfman’s dynamic musical score, and you have one of the most quotable and best movies from the eighties. Any movie geek or pop culture collector should definitely own this. My favorite scenes? Pee Wee hunting down Francis, the meeting in the basement, and of course…the big finale that takes place on the backlot of a movie studio, involving Godzilla, Santa Clause, and Twisted Sister. Wanna see for yourself? Get your own copy, it’ll be well worth the cost.