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Pee-wee's Big Adventure

  • 1985
  • PG
  • 90min
  • 89%
  • 7 / 10

Pee-wee Herman, an eccentric pre-pubescent boy, clad in a shrunken gray flannel suit, owns a red bicycle and is not willing to sell it to his nemesis, Francis. While visiting his friend Dottie, Pee-wee finds that his bicycle has been nabbed. Set on finding his beloved possession, Pee-wee embarks on a journey to reclaim it.

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movie facts

There are about 12 bicycles that were built by Pedal Pusher Bike Shop solely for the movie. The shop, situated in Newport Beach CA, is known for its vintage and classic bicycles. It was given two offers: $10,000 but no screen credit or screen credit alone. Of course, the shop took a very pragmatic course of action and opted for the money.

Also, the dinosaurs in the film are a real-life tourist sight. They are located at the Wheel Inn Restaurant in Cabazon, CA. Their appearance was followed in Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs (1989).

For the film score, Tim Burton and Paul Reubens brought in Danny Elfman, who had previously worked on the soundtrack for Forbidden Zone (1980). Burton personally chose Elfman after the director saw concerts by Oingo Boingo, where Elfman took the role of the lead singer and songwriter. The musician initially expressed apprehensions about the project due to his lack of musical background and formal education on the craft. Nevertheless, with the help of Steve Bartek, Boingo’s guitarist, Elman finally came on board and relished the chance to compose an orchestral score. He even noted that the endeavor was definitely one of the most exciting experiences in his life.

Pee-wee's Big Adventure movie review

Tim Burton may have been so clever enough as to collaborate with Paul Reubens in his debut film, Pee-wee's Big Adventure. In it, the director is able to showcase his daring visual imagination as well as his willingness to delve into the farcical and the bizarre.

Pee-Wee was originally Paul Reuben's night club act. He acts as a manic degenerate too fey for the general public. It is Burton's ability to create a cartoonish environment that the title character finally thrives. The film bears a strong resemblance to a classic Warner Brother's cartoon in the sense that its title character has a shtick - identifiable characterization, simple plot motivation, predictable gags, and surreal logic. As it should, as the episodic plot of the film is a format where Pee-Wee begins to fit in. He's still as hyperactive and sexually ambiguous as he did when he debuted. It is the witty and wacky script of Paul Reuben and Phil Hartman that contextualizes Pee-Wee in his own cartoonish world. Danny Elfman provides the eccentric score that encompasses everything from cartoon jingles to parodies of rock songs by Bernard Herrmann and Ennio Morricone. But everything comes together with Billy Weber's impeccable comedy editing.

The film, albeit exaggerated, is about the childish id each adult carries inside. Most adults suppress their childish desire to be recognized and to be the center of attention. It is not the case with Pee-Wee. Viewers will see this id comes through when Pee-Wee plays a hotel clerk in a movie about his life. As the scene progresses, he inches closer and closer to the center of the frame, and takes the attention away from the 'stars.' It is not out of malice, but out of the longing of his ego to vie for attention.

In the end, the film is about everyone's childish desire to want and to be wanted. But only those who are unabashed and unapologetic get to fulfill their desires.


about the movie

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) is an adventure comedy film directed by Tim Burton from a screenplay written by Phil Hartman, Paul Reubens, and Michael Varhol. It stars Reubens in the lead cast. Alongside him are Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton, Diane Salinger, and Judd Omen. Often dubbed as a parody version of Bicycle Thieves (1948), the film marks Burton’s debut in directing a full-length film.