Forget Batman, Pee-wee is back.
There are a few pleasant surprises here, such as not-so-subtle homage to Russ Meyer‘s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965). Still, mostly Reubens plays it safe, giving us exactly what we expect of him.
Pee-wee Herman comes from a very small cinematic tradition of the “creepy man-child,” whichintroduced in the silent era. Primarily under the direction of Harry Edwards and , Langdon initially kept his character’s more disturbingly childlike qualities in check. However, eager to expand that characterization, Langdon eventually let loose—which quickly destroyed his career, even if the results were artistically satisfying.
Stan Laurel, very much influenced by Langdon, learned from his mentor’s populist misstep and kept the baby-face half of Laurel and Hardy forever innocent., also influenced by Langdon, had more freedom with a European audience. In 1979, Steve Martin introduced his take on the naughty child. However, after a few experiments that unfortunately failed at the American box office, Martin took the safer route of growing up, which eventually rendered his body of work both disappointing and inconsequential. Reuben’s Pee-wee Herman character first emerged around the same time as Martin’s. After Burton and Rubens produced the masterpiece Pee-wee’s Big Adevnture, 1988’s Big Top Pee Wee was a disaster. This flop hardly mattered due to Reuben’s award winning “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” TV show (which earned 15 Emmys in 5 years). Reubens was undoubtedly the most original small screen personality since Ernie Kovacs.