PEE-WEES BIG ADVENTURE
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was the feature-length directorial debut for Tim Burton. Burton subsequently went onto become one of the top genre directors in Hollywood. (See below for Tim Burtons others films). Prior to Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Burton had been working as a storyboard artist and animator at Disney and then attained a name for himself with two short works Vincent (1982), an elaborate stop-motion animated tribute to Vincent Price, and Frankenweenie (1985), a live-action childrens homage to the classic Universal Frankenstein films, which was never released because it was deemed too scary for children by Disney.
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure hops and skips along with a kitsch banality that finds an appeal. There is an enormous degree of visual invention and moments of characteristically oddball eccentricity upon Tim Burtons part the parody of ghost story tall tales with the female trucker turning into a Beetlejuice-like pop-up stop-motion effect; and the climactic chase through the Warner Brothers movie lot and the sets of everything from Godzilla, Santa Claus and beach party movies all strung together, along with the wacky image of Paul Reubens doing a Tarzan vine-swing while riding his bicycle. The film even appealingly spoofs itself with a film within a film where we see James Brolin cast as a Hollywood he-man version of Pee-Wee. Behind it all, there is a sweetness in the films appealing message that plain people should be able to do what they want.
The film takes place in a cartoonishly hyper-real world. The nutty design work is good, especially amusing being Pee-Wees kitsch house that we see in the opening scene with its bold colour scheme, giant oversised cutlery, garden gnome lawn sprinklers, fire poles to get from the bedroom to the kitchen and Rube Goldberg breakfast-making contraptions.
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was the first occasion upon which Tim Burton teamed with musician Danny Elfman, a relationship the two would continue through Burtons next five big-budget films and beyond. The film also features cameos from Milton Berle, crossdressing 80s heavy metallers Twisted Sister, Elvira herself Cassandra Peterson and Morgan Fairchild.
Paul Reubens essayed Pee-Wee Herman in one other film sans Tim Burton, the less well received Big Top Pee-Wee (1988). He announced several attempts to revive Pee-Wee with another movie in the 00s, which finally came about with Pee Wees Big Holiday (2016). There was also a limited-run stage revival The Pee-Wee Herman Stage Show (2010) and a tv special that consisted of a filmed version of one of the live performances The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway (2011). Since the arrest(s), Paul Reubenss career has been uneven. He has made appearances in several other Tim Burton films as The Penguins father in Batman Returns (1992) and voice work in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), and gone onto other roles in tvs Murphy Brown (1988-98), the original movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), as a superhero in Mystery Men (1999), as a drug dealer in Blow (2001), the ghost of a dead boyfriend in Life During Wartime (2009) and a number of animation voicing roles. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was also spoofed in Kevin Smiths Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001).
Tim Burtons subsequent genre films were:- the gonzo afterlife comedy Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), the artificial boy fable Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), the worlds worst director biopic Ed Wood (1994), the cornball alien invader film Mars Attacks! (1996), the ghost story Sleepy Hollow (1999), the Planet of the Apes remake (2001), Big Fish (2003) about an habitual teller of tall tales, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), the stop-motion animated Gothic fantasy Corpse Bride (2005), the horror musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007); Alice in Wonderland (2010); the film remake of the tv series Dark Shadows (2012) the stop-motion animated Frankenweenie (2012); and Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children (2016). Burton has also produced Henry Selicks ghoulish Halloween-invades-Christmas puppet show The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), the absurdist conte cruel Cabin Boy (1994), Batman Forever (1995), Selicks James and the Giant Peach (1996), the animated 9 (2009), Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2012) and Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016). The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? (2015) is a fascinating documentary about Burtons failed Superman Lives project.