Pee Wee’s Big Holiday is a refreshing throwback to childhood bliss
Are we too cynical for Pee-wee Herman? I grew up with the childish comedian, and I watched Pee-wee’s Playhouse every week. He returns after over 20 years with the buoyant and charming Pee-wee’s Big Holiday. It made me feel like a kid again, and it also features one of the best bromances in recent memory.
Life in Fairville is pretty tame. Pee-wee works as a cook in a local diner, and it doesn’t seem as if the little hamlet has ever had any real problems or issues. It makes Pleasantville look like downtown Detroit. Even though every is sunny and seemingly perfect, his band, The Renegades, inform him that they are too busy to keep practicing and they have to break up. Pee-wee throws a tantrum (he always did have that temper, didn’t he?), and that’s when a certain member of a former HBO horror series walks through the door.
Joe Manganiello (as Joe Manganiello) is the epitome of “triple cool,” and he and Pee-wee connect over their love of root beer barrels (as seemingly heterosexual guys do). Joe immediately invites Pee-wee to his birthday party in New York City. After Joe leaves, Pee-wee can’t get Joe’s advice of “live a little” out of his head. He sets off on a cross-country road trip, but, of course, things don’t go as planned.
Writers Paul Reubens (AKA Pee-wee mastermind) and Paul Rust (star of Judd Apatow’s Love) succeed in banding together the motliest of crews I’ve seen in a while. Pee-wee encounters a trio of Faster, Pussycat! bank robbers, a farmer with 9 eager and amorous daughters, and a traveling joke salesman, and he manages to meet and abandon them in an almost breakneck fashion. Pee Wee’s Big Holiday only runs 88 minutes, so they focus on making you laughing—even if the jokes are a bit corny and screwball (“Did you hear about the corduroy pillows? They’re making headlines!”). There are dream sequences where Pee-wee images connecting with Joe Manganiello, and it made this viewer jealous on so many levels.
Unlike Fuller House, Pee Wee’s Big Holiday feels less like it’s a nostalgia show-off. Reubens has had his fair share of ups and downs, but Pee-wee was his constant, joyful, and overly childish presence that consistently made me laugh. There is a sequence where he blows up a balloon to a giant size, and then he deflates it to show some Amish people how to have more fun. Some people will think Pee-wee Herman making a balloon fart for almost a minute is exhaustive. I found it hilarious. Enjoy being a kid. Don’t take everything so seriously. Live a little.