Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Posted by on Jan 2, 2012 in My Childhood | 0 comments


Disclaimer: There are a few sequences (dinosaurs, scary clowns, and Large Marge) that may scare the young ones, but otherwise it’s surprisingly wholesome.

If you wanted to find my dad, brother, or myself on a Saturday morning during my childhood, you weren’t going to find us doing chores or playing outside. We’d be glued to the tube for Pee Wee’s Playhouse. It was the rare find that joined children and adults alike in a celebration of sheer nonsense and hilarity – he had a dog chair, a robot, and a giant foil ball, after all. Once in a while I’ll watch a rerun on Adult Swim and, as my brother contests, we can gain a better understanding of why we turned out so damn strange. Thankfully sometime after Paul Reubens’ successful stand-up run as Pee Wee, someone must have suggested, “Why don’t you make a picture, it’ll last longer?” Luckily, he did.

In the epic film, which came Pee2one year before the premiere of the series and is completely different, Pee Wee Herman is in search of his stolen bike. For the first 20 minutes of the movie, you’d be hard-pressed to find a moment where Pee Wee isn’t riding, talking about, or on screen with the bike. And there’s a good reason: it’s the James Bond car of bikes, and with just as many sweet features. Seriously, you could smoke Lance Armstrong on this thing (and Pee Wee does win the Tour de France at one point).

The film takes a serious turn when Pee Wee suspects his wealthy neighbor Francis (Mark Holton) stole his bike. In an effort to retrieve it, Pee Wee takes the advice of a psychic and travels to Texas’s Alamo and even Hollywood. Along the way, he meets up with quite a group of misfits including a fugitive named Mickey, a ghost named Large Marge, and a group of bikers named Satan’s Helpers.

This great adventure, as directed by Tim Burton (believe it or not), loosely follows the classic Bicycle Thief and spoofs several other films along the way (not to mention a criminal case overview in his basement that puts every episode of Law & Order to shame). Keep an eye out for a great cast of cameo appearances from Phil Hartman (who also wrote the screenplay with Reubens), Milton Berle, Twisted Sister, and Elvira. In a hilarious movie-within-the-movie, James Brolin plays Pee Wee and Morgan Fairchild plays his love interest Dottie. And it wouldn’t be Pee Wee without tons of visual gags. His daily routine scene is incredible, and kids will be begging you to recreate his Rube Goldberg Breakfast.

This underrated film began what would eventually lead to another film (Big Top Pee Wee), the series, and another Pee Wee movie rumored to be on the way (Pee Wee’s Playhouse: The Movie), not to mention a huge franchise of Pee Wee toys and collectibles. Even if you were under a rock in the 80s and 90s and missed this popular wave, you likely know the iconic dance to Tequila (featured in this film) and have heard the quotes, “I know you are, but what am I,” “If you love it so much, why don’t you marry it,” and the sarcastic, “I love that story.” In the case of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, I certainly do love that story. And I’d like to make you, but I don’t make monkeys; I just train ’em.

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