Pee-wee in Name Only

Pee-wee(1)

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Netflix is really pushing the nostalgic stuff aren’t they? Barely three weeks after Fuller House and we’ve already got other nostalgia trip back to the mid-80s on the plate with Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, and it proves to be a much tastier morsel than expected.

Before we go any further: If you’re just reading this to find out if Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is worth your time, it is. I recommend it heartily and suggest watching without getting spoilers. With that in mind, let’s proceed.

On paper, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is a movie that’s just your run of the mill wacky road trip plot, but in execution it’s a strange and wonderful beast. The titular character is very charming in his surrealist way and that right there is the grace of the movie. A lot of this film is just cookie cutter road trip plots, but Pee-wee always finds a way to make them unpredictable. Just when you think you know the punchline, Pee-wee plays classical music on a deflating balloon.

Pee-wee(2)For what was clearly a test movie, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday has surprising depth. Many items that are acquired throughout the movie are used later or foreshadowed, and side characters work well in their skits. Pee-wee’s Big Holiday also features a cast of B+ actors that you may or may not remember. Joe Manganiello (guy that’s not Magic Mike in Magic Mike), some of the actors from Burn Notice, and others from Netflix properties all make an appearance.

If I have one problem with the film, it’s that I wish it were an hour instead of 90 minutes. Some of the skits drag and others could have been cut altogether. Pee-wee Herman is a lot like joke episodes for more serious shows. A little is fine, but add a little too much and the luster comes tumblin’ down. The film also lacks a grander scale to it. For a movie about traveling across America to get to New York, it really feels like it was shot in the same place.

Ultimately, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is a great if not that ambitious romp in Pee-wee land. It’s a breath of fresh air after Netflix’s “other” reboot and paves the way for more. Hopefully this becomes the standard for Netflix reboots, because I’m excited to see what’s next.

(Images are official publicity material from Netflix.)

TV Talk is a regular television column written by Robert Pulford, Current Staff.

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