Hey kids, we WANT to love Pee Wee’s new movie. Honest we do!
Sure, he’s 63. And he’s 30 years removed from “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” And just as many years separated from Tim Burton, who made that film a breakout for them both.
But he doesn’t look a day over…40.(Digital erasure of the signs of ageing.) He’s still infantile, pasty-faced and able to deliver the oldest jokes as if he’s just heard them on the playground.
“Have you heard about those new corduroy pillows?”
No, Pee Wee, we haven’t.
“I’m surprised! Cuz they’re making HEADlines! Get it? Heh heh!”
The bow-tie, the white bucks, they’re still the talk of Fairville, his home town.
But the laugh is hard to reproduce in his AARP years. The antic/manic/birdlike energy of his every gesture is missing. So “Pee Wee’s Big Holiday,” a road-trip comedy starring Paul Reubens as America’s oldest tweenager, doesn’t have the snap of the goofball in his glory.
The pacing is flat, Reubens has lost his fastball and the supporting cast of eccentric casual strangers who cross Pee Wee’s path is middling.
But Reubens/Herman is still innately amusing, and packaging Pee Wee as a bromance-struck short order cook trying to make it to his new bro’s birthday party is hilarious. The new bro? “Magic Mike” muscleman Joe Manganiello, playing himself, a side of beefcake every bit as taken with the kabuki-pale man-child as Pee Wee is with him.
“Double cool,” Pee Wee purrs at Manganiello on a motorcycle, “TRIPLE cool.”
The quest hurls Pee Wee into a female gang of bank robbers (Alia Shawkat plays a hoodlum nicknamed “Pee Wee”), a female car-converted-into-a-plane pilot (Diane Salinger) and Farmer Brown’s farmhouse full of ready, willing, plump and nubile daughters, all of whom want to bed our hero.
Who will not be dissuaded from his quest. The Amish, mountain man Grizzly Bear Daniels (Brad William Henke), Wanda and her RV beauty salon, all just waypoints on his trek from mid-America to New York, where his bro eagerly awaits his new best pal.
Reubens can still milk a simple joke for all that it’s worth, and then some. Watch what he does with the air escaping from a balloon — a vertitable symphony (“Jingle Bells”) built around a rude squeak.
But director John Lee (“The Heart, She Holler”) doesn’t give this any pizzazz. There’s nothing as magical as Pee Wee dancing to “Tequila,” provoking a motorcycle gang or joining the circus.
It’s not much of a movie, frankly. But our good will goes a long way where Pee Wee’s concerned. Herman appreciation is like love for Tinker Belle. If you want to like it enough, you will.
MPAA Rating: unrated
Cast: Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens, Joe Manganiello, Alia Shawkat, Michelle Meredith, Hal Landon, Jr., Paul Rust,
Credits: Directed by John Lee, script by Paul Reubens, Paul Rust. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:29