Pee-wee’s Big Holiday

Pee-wee's Big Holiday

A chance encounter with a mysterious stranger (Joe Manganiello) points Pee-wee toward his destiny — and his first-ever holiday!

Year: 2016
Certificate: PG
Director: John Lee
Starring: Paul ReubensAlia ShawkatBrad William HenkeJoe ManganielloStephanie BeatrizJessica PohlyDiane SalingerRichard RiehleHal Landon Jr.Tara BuckPatrick Egan

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Netflix once again work their Lazarushian magic – this time to bring back Paul Reubens’ iconic comedic creation, Pee-wee Herman – and, after a quarter of a century away from our screens, “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday” is a charming return to form.

Pee-wee is thriving in his 50s-inspired hometown of Fairville. He makes the best French toast in town at the diner and all the locals love him. But, when a tight t-shirted Joe Manganiello (playing a version of himself) rides into town and invites Pee-wee to his Manhattan birthday party, Pee-wee’s new friendship challenges his hometown loyalty. Against his better judgement, Pee-wee heads off to the Big Apple, running into all sorts of adventures on the way.

Reuben’s delivers the same shtick as ever, and he does it well, but the end-of-sentence ‘heheh’s may grate if that’s not your thing. It would be difficult, however, not to be at least a little softened by some of Pee-wee’s touching character moments. Reubens has talked about the character providing an opportunity to delve into his own psyche and, as a result, there’s a surprising amount of truth to this playful man-child.

Some of the mid-journey diversions are, well, more diverting than others, as the film feels the loss of its star player, Joe Manganiello. He totally commits to his ‘role’, and the film is at its best when Reubens and Manganiello are charmingly goofing around together: most notably, in a series of sparkling dream sequences. They play off each other brilliantly and these scenes understandably offer the most camp delight. Despite being entirely innocent, “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday” somehow manages to still be joyfully sex-positive, a rare occurrence in most family entertainment.

There are more smiles for grown-up audiences than out-and-out laughs, but Reubens’ unbridled enthusiasm is undeniably charming and younger viewers are likely to enjoy watching this colourful adventure film.

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About Benedict

Freelance culture journalist and Film Studies graduate. Netflix is his happy place.

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