Pee-wee's Big Adventure

1985

Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)

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Critic Consensus: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure brings Paul Reubens' famous character to the big screen intact, along with enough inspired silliness to dazzle children of all ages.

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Movie Info

Co-written by Paul Reubens and Phil Hartman, Pee Wee's Big Adventure marks the debut of director Tim Burton, who stamps the entire film with his quirky trademark style. The premise: Pee Wee (Reubens), an overgrown pre-pubescent boy sporting a molded Princeton cut, blush, lipstick, and a shrunken gray flannel suit, lives an idyllic life in his bizarre home (some have compared the remarkable set design to the expressionistic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) until someone nabs his most prized possession: a fire engine-red customized bicycle. He then embarks on an epic cross-country search to find his lost love, not to mention more than a little adventure. Along the way, he makes friends with various oddball characters, visits the Alamo, endures various hallucinatory nightmares, and has a supernatural run-in with a spectral trucker. In this reprisal of his popular standup routine, Reubens is wonderful as the nerdy man child; he plays it silly, yet he manages to imbue the role with some sensitivity without ever seeming maudlin. The score by Danny Elfman is terrific -- as is the case in nearly every film Burton has directed -- and the script is fresh and inventive. Some of the most memorable moments: the opening sequence involving Pee Wee's morning activities is a stroke of genius (note the bunny slippers and talking breakfast), as are the scenes at the truck stop, and the "Hollywood" version of Pee Wee's story at the end (starring James Brolin and Morgan Fairchild in surprise cameos). In all, Pee Wee's Big Adventure is a delightful film, enjoyable for children as well as adults. ~Rovi

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Cast

Paul Reubens
as Pee-Wee Herman
Mark Holton
as Francis
Judd Omen
as Mickey
Carmen Filpi
as Hobo Jack
Starletta DuPois
as Sergeant Hunter
Mark Everett
as BMX Kid
Bill Cable
as Policeman
Peter Looney
as Policeman
Ed Herlihy
as Mr. Buxton
Ralph Seymour
as Francis' Accomplice
Lou Cutell
as Amazing Larry
Raymond Martino
as Gang Member
Erica Yohn
as Mme. Ruby
Bill Richmond
as Highway Patrolman
Alice Nunn
as Large Marge
Ed Griffith
as Trucker
Simmy Bow
as Man in Diner
John Moody
as Bus Clerk
Alex Sharp
as Cowboy
Jason Hervey
as Kevin Morton
Bob McClurg
as Studio Guard
John Paragon
as Movie Lot Actor
Susan Barnes
as Movie Lot Actress
Lynne Marie Stewart
as Mother Superior
George Sasaki
as Japanese Director
Bob Drew
as Fireman
John Gilgreen
as Policeman at Pet Shop
Phil Hartman
as Reporter
Michael Varhol
as Photographer
Tony Bill
as Terry Hawthorne
Milton Berle
as Himself [uncredited]
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News & Interviews for Pee-wee's Big Adventure

Critic Reviews for Pee-wee's Big Adventure

All Critics (45) | Top Critics (6)

"Pee-wee's Big Adventure" isn't a movie but a collection of found objects from the garbage heap of low culture...

Jan 2, 2018 | Full Review…

Reubens always lets us feel superior to his creation, and when his character slips, as it does more than once in this first feature outing, his own condescension shows through.

Feb 9, 2010 | Full Review…

Fair warning: this movie could induce terminal boredom in adults and rot the minds of the young.

Feb 9, 2010 | Full Review…
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Children should love the film and adults will be dismayed by the light brushstrokes with which Paul Reubens (one of three credited screenwriters, but star-billed under his stage name, Pee-wee Herman) suggests touches of Buster Keaton and Eddie Cantor.

Feb 9, 2010 | Full Review…
Variety
Top Critic

Fed by comic tributaries perhaps, but Pee-Wee Herman comes over as a delightful original.

Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

You have been warned.

May 20, 2003 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Pee-wee's Big Adventure

Often too juvenile to bear, but for the other moments it's mostly just pure, exuberant fun. Full review later.

Thomas Bowler
Thomas Bowler

Super Reviewer

½

Tim Burton's "Peewee's Big Adventure" is arguably scarier than it is funny, blending the darkness and lightness together, and I absolutely loved that contrast. The odd visuals and the bubbly soundtrack make this film a joy to watch, even though sometimes it forgets what kind of film it is trying to be, throwing in random jump scares. The story is simple, Peewee's bike is stolen and the film is his journey to bring it back. It is a very fun tale that many films after have clearly been influenced by. Some people may be turned off by it's two-sidedness, but I loved that about it. The art direction is really commendable and is what I'll remember this film most for, and of course, the Peewee character. This is an extremely fun movie!

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

½

The start of Tim Burton's great directing career. "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" is odd, funny, and entertaining. So many iconic moments, from the Alamo to Large Marge to Pee-wee's trek through Hollywood. I also love how Danny Elfman's score perfectly syncs to the film. The screenwriters did a great job with the script by creating truly memorable characters and scenes. Add Burton's quirky directing skills and what we get is one humorous adventure. Mickey: Well, I lost my temper and I took a knife and I uh-. Do you know those "Do Not Remove Under the Penalty of Law" labels they put on mattresses? Pee-wee: Yeah. Mickey: Well I CUT one of them off!

Eric Shankle
Eric Shankle

Super Reviewer

½

In three words: manic goofy weirdness. This marked Tim Burton's directorial debut, and, not only was it a big breakthrough for him, but a big stepping stone for co-writer and star Paul Reubens (credited as Pee-wee Herman) and composer Danny Elfman. The story follows the adventure of Pee-wee Herman, a lovable goofy man child who sets out on a cross country trip to recover his beloved bicycle that was stolen from him. Along the way he meets a wide variety of zany colorful characters, gets into some nutty situations, and truly does have a big adventure. The film is extremely offbeat, but that's probbbaly why it has become such a beloved cult classic. It's also an exercise in style and genre hopping, from road movies to German expressionism, with bits of surrealism and a whole lot more. This is an utterly wacky and lovable movie, and I can't beieve it took me so long to finally see it. I always sorta dug Pee-wee, even though a little bit of his shtick goes a long way. You really have to admire Reubens for his dedication to keeping in character, which isn't easy to do, especially with someone so delirious off kilter as Herman. Elizabeth Daily is good as Pee-wee's friend (who wants to be more than friends) Dottie, Diane Salinger is fun as a waitress named Simone who longs to see Paris, and Judd Omen is great as Mickey- the criminal on the lam who Pee-wee hitches a ride from. Lots of Tim Burton trademarks started here, from the misunderstood social outcast protagonist, to the partnership with Elfman, the offbeat style and crazy art direction. Speaking of all of that: it's top notch, especially Elfman's delightful score. All in all, this is a real gem. It's definitely not for all tastes, but if you crave something wacky, and odd, but still pretty harmless, then this is the film for you.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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