Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals : 10/10

Tim Burton at his best


Movie Info

Movie Name:  Pee-wee’s Big Adventure

Studio:  Aspen Film Society

Genre(s):  Comedy

Release Date(s):  August 9, 1985

MPAA Rating:  PG



Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) loves his bike more than anything in the world.  When his jealous frenemy Francis Buxton (Mark Holton) has the bike stolen, Pee-wee finds himself off an adventure across the United States to find it.  The quest for his bike sends Pee-wee to the Alamo’s basement, rodeos, riding with bikers and escaped convicts, and the most dangerous place of all…Hollywood!

Directed by Tim Burton, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was written by Paul Reubens with additional writing by Phil Hartman and Michael Varhol.  The movie was a critical  and financial success and the film has developed a cult following over the years.


Tell ’em Large Marge sent ya!

I love, love Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.  The movie came out at the right time for me with Pee-wee skewing a little older than young kids but not fun for teens.  The oddity of the movie has maintained over the years and still is a fun ride.

The story has this really surreal nature to it that appeals to younger viewers but also can be enjoyed by older viewers due to the strong script.  The movie is able to go for out and out bizarre due to Paul Reubens’ man-child Pee-wee and one of the best things of the movie is that no one is really fazed by how bizarre Pee-wee is.  He’s just allowed to be completely weird in his own way throughout the movie with little judgment.  The movie is laced with memorable lines and has a tone similar to Steve Martin’s The Jerk…but for kids…sort of.


I’m going to start a paper route right now!

It is Paul Reubens that makes it “sort of” for kids.  The original Pee-wee’s Playhouse was for adults and then the kids show was for kids (but adults could watch).  There is a weird on-the-side approach to the humor which Reubens himself seems to bring in a ton of double entendre to.  Reubens surrounds himself with a lot of friends from the Groundlings comedy group (who were often also on Pee-wee’s Playhouse), and everyone seems to get into the spirit of the movie which makes it work…Plus, you get a fake movie with James Brolin and Morgan Fairchild and cameos by Godzilla, Twisted Sister, and Santa Claus!


Snakes…why did it have to be snakes

The movie also launched Tim Burton’s career.  It was Burton’s first full-length feature film following his shorts Vincent and Frankenweenie.  Burton’s strange visuals work great with Pee-wee and many argue that this is one of Burton’s oddest films since there are very few limits on the visuals and stylings of the movie.  The picture is bright and colorful and also marked Burton’s first teaming with composer Danny Elfman.

I can understand why some can’t get into the surreal nature of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, but I fall for it every time.  It is one of those movies that I’ve seen multiple times but can enjoy whenever it is on.  The movie was followed by a quasi-sequel in Big Top Pee-wee in 1988 which unfortunately just never lived up to this movie.  Pee-wee Herman however is scheduled to live again on Netflix.

Related Links:

Big Top Pee-wee (1988)

Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (1988)

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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