Pee-Wee's Big Holiday online movie review - "Pee-Wee's Big Holiday"- A very charming but often uneven return for the beloved comedic icon.
Many times before, I've noted that one of the most important things a comedy film must do is to charm its audience.
With good characters and a good heart at its core (or even a black heart in some cases), a film's charm can make up for many a fault, whether it be lackluster writing, questionable casting or poor visual direction. And I do think charm is the one saving grace that helps to elevate the 2016 Netflix original movie "Pee-Wee's Big Holiday" beyond the shaky foundation of its troubled and uneven script. As a long-time fan of the character who very much enjoyed his children's show and adored the original theatrical "Big Adventure", I found myself once again having a blast thanks to the wonderful childlike antics of Paul Reubens' iconic creation... even when it falters on a frequent basis.
Pee-Wee Herman (Reubens) isn't having the best day at his home in the town of Fairville. He's just found out his band has broken up and his friends are moving on, while he feels scared to go out into the wide world. However, a chance-encounter with actor Joe Manganiello causes Pee-Wee to question his inability to leave. When Joe invites Pee-Wee to his Birthday bash in the Big Apple, Pee-Wee decides that now is the perfect chance to take a road-trip and broaden his horizons. Along the way, he'll run afoul a group of Bank Robbers (Jessica Pohly, Alia Shawkat and Stephanie Beatriz), meet a kindly old farmer (Hal Landon Jr.) and his nine crazy daughters, befriend an eccentric aviator (Diane Salinger) and encounter numerous other colorful characters on his journey to New York.
The biggest part of the appeal here is the sort-of novelty of seeing such a wonderful and widely loved character back after so many years. And this simplistic aspect of the film is where it excels the most. Pee-Wee has always been a favorite for many people, and when Reubens is able to focus on simply being the character in all his obnoxious and childlike glory, the film nails its grandest laughs. He's such an inherently silly and entertaining character to watch, that I found if anything, the film was weakened by being bogged down too much in trying to replicate the sort-of road trip aesthetic first seen in "Big Adventure." I almost wish that the film had more of a traditional narrative that narrowed down on characters and instead placed more focus on Pee-Wee as a character than on his journey. We've missed him. We just want more Pee-Wee. There doesn't necessarily have to be a grand plot at hand.
Unfortunately the problems with the film are a result of it trying to recreate the magic of that original film. Director John Lee can't quite recapture the magic that Reubens and director Tim Burton had so many years ago, and instead we're saddled with a lot of really half-baked gags and hastily abbreviated sequences that constantly swap Pee-Wee out with different supporting characters. It just comes off as very rushed and a uneven as a result and there's too many moments that fall flat for me to completely ignore it.
Thankfully, that charm factor I spoke of earlier is able to salvage the film despite this. Pee-Wee continues to wow us with his ability to generate honest laughs and chuckles, and Reubens barely looks like he's aged a day since the last film. Supprting roles are all generally well-played and enjoyable despite their often abbreviated screen time. Particularly Salinger and Shawcat, who are both a great boost to the film. Manganiello is also a good bit of fun playing a sort-of caricature of himself. And despite lacking style, the film's playful atmosphere is very infectious. You'll find yourself chuckling along with Pee-Wee, humming the theme to yourself and giggling over its handful of inspired gags for hours after its over.
I'm going to give "Pee-Wee's Big Holiday" a pretty good 7 out of 10 for the sheer manic likability and charm it oozes in every scene. If you're a longtime fan of the character, you're definitely going to get a kick out of it. But if you're on the fence or have built up the hype too much, it's uneven storytelling might be a bit too off-putting.