(1985) director Tim Burton
I had watched Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) with Felix some years ago. On re-examination, it was five years ago, which would have made him four or five and my daughter about two, so it’s little wonder they don’t recall it. But after watching Tim Burton’s 1988 film Beetlejuice, the idea came to me that Pee-wee’s Big Adventure might be worth another go. And as circumstances had it, we had a couple other friends in tow for it as well.
For me, my reactions to the film were remarkably similar to what they were five years ago. I still think parts of it are quite funny, a couple of gags funnier still than others, though it’s a fairly thin film. The movie does play extensively with genre, being a road movie of sorts and winding up on the movie lot, bursting through a variety of films in production, and playfully tweaking the whole notion of film-making in the Drive-In movie exhibition of the “Hollywood” version of Pee-Wee’s story.
What was most funny about watching it with these four kids, ages 7, 8, 9, and 10 was how weirded-out they were by Pee-Wee’s persona. Clara summed up that he is “a grown-up who acts like a baby”, referring to his cadre of toys and his penchant for play. We’ve watched any number of old films together: Buster Keaton, Ray Harryhausen, Godzilla movies, and so on. Victoria noted that this was an old film (Fair enough. It is 26 years old), but it wasn’t as old as some. They had very perplexed and concerned looks on their faces through much of the film and there weren’t nearly as many laughs out of them as I’d anticipated.
I do think that Felix and Clara liked it a bit more than their friends. Felix liked the part where Pee-Wee rides his bike into the Godzilla movie being filmed and the long chase scene drops Godzilla with Santa Claus, among the cops and chaos that pays homage to the slap-stick comedy genre.
I still say that the dance scene is the best.