Netflix quietly released Pee-wee’s Big Holiday last month, the first Pee-wee Herman film since 1988’s Big Top Pee-wee. Fans of Pee-wee will be pleasantly be surprised to learn that Pee-wee is as adventure-prone as ever, and while we’ve grown up, our bowtie-clad hero hasn’t.
Forced to confront his future, Pee-wee takes off for New York, setting off on a cross-country adventure with the help of new friends a long the way. He accidentally aids bank robbers, takes a short trip in a plane, is an almost-victim in a shotgun wedding, meets the Amish, and has his first slice of pizza.
Pee-wee’s Big Holiday doesn’t change much (even Pee-wee hasn’t aged), but that’s to the film’s credit, and perhaps its entire point: Pee-wee hasn’t grown up or left town, but his friends will, and his adventure may be a not so subtle way to beg the Millenials to let go of its childhood and its endless reboots.
If that is the point, it’s hard to tell sometimes. Holiday succeeds in all the ways Pee-wee did in the past: a litany of guest stars (Stephanie Beatriz, Alia Shawkat were pleasant surprises; Joe Maganiello as himself was a delight), a neighborhood-wide Rube Goldberg machine, and borderline inappropriate jokes (a couple of bankrobbers invite male strippers over for a pillowfight, but Pee-wee blacks out from the horror just in time) harken to Pee-wee’s original humor and joy with great success.
Holiday is a lot like The Muppets: directed by John Lee and written by Paul Reubens and Love‘s Paul Rust, the film is brimming with love, respect, and admiration for the character’s original, classic content. Holiday doesn’t take a lot of chances, but it doesn’t need to. Instead Holiday is a comforting pat on the back. Having survived the horror of an ’80s resurgence (TMNT, Transformers, Fuller House), that’s just fine.
Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is streaming now on Netflix.