I grew up watching some strange films in my youth, like the Kurt Russell cult classic, Big Trouble in Little China, and Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter (but especially Street Fighter). But, I don't think any movie from my childhood was more bizarre than Pee-wee's Big Adventure.
I mean, man. This is one strange film, and even more strange when viewing it with my children as a grown-ass adult. It just makes me appreciate Tim Burton's early work even more. In fact, when ranking Tim Burton's movies, I'd put it toward the very top, right up there with Ed Wood, and Big Fish. That said, I had some really interesting thoughts when I watched the movie again quite recently. Here are just a few of those observations.
Pee-Wee Must Waste So Much Food Every Morning When He Makes Breakfast
The opening to Pee-wee's Big Adventure is brilliant because it perfectly sets up the world and the character of this insane universe. Pee-wee gets out of bed, starts playing with toys like a child, then slides down a fireman's pole to make breakfast. My five-year-old son couldn't stop laughing at this, saying, "Isn't he a grown man? Why is he playing with toys?"
But, the best part is when Pee-wee starts making breakfast with a Rube Goldberg-like machine. The whole event takes about four good minutes, with pancakes flipped on the ceiling, eggs cracked by a drinking bird toy, and bread flown in and dropped into a toaster by a flying toy dinosaur.
Then, Pee-wee pours out a box of Mr. T cereal (Which, yes, I googled to see if it was real) over "Mr. Breakfast," which is the smiley face meal he created with eggs, bacon, and pancakes. And, after all that, he ate only ONE PIECE OF CEREAL.
As a kid, I probably laughed out loud at this, but as an adult, all I could think was, He just wasted so much food! I'll tell you, being an adult is no fun when the first thought you have at a scene like that is just how many people could have actually enjoyed "Mr. Breakfast" instead of it all going to waste.
Amazing Larry Is The True Star Of This Movie
After Pee-wee has his bike swiped, he decides to gather people all over town to have a sort of interrogation. The scene, like the rest of the movie, is absolutely bonkers, as he brings up a diorama, and treats the whole bike-stealing event as if he were investigating the assassination of a president, like in the Oliver Stone classic, JFK.
But, the absolute funniest part in this moment, and possibly in the entire movie, is when everybody gasps except a man with a colorful mohawk, and Pee-wee suddenly asks, "Is there something you could share with the rest of us, Amazing Larry!?" And the man looks absolutely stunned. The actor who plays him is Lou Cutell, and that is the first and last time we ever see him in the entire movie.
That said, I couldn't stop thinking about Amazing Larry throughout the rest of the film. Like, who the hell is he, and what makes him so amazing? That's what I want to know.
The Large Marge Scene Isn't Nearly As Scary As Pee-Wee's Nightmare
In my article about five surprisingly scary scenes from ‘80s kids movies, I, of course, put the scene with Large Marge, when she makes that horrific face, and it is scary. I mean, it's not Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, which absolutely scarred me as a child, but it was pretty terrifying as a kid.
So, to save my kids the nightmare, I skipped past that part for them. That said, I watched it again by myself alone, and it really wasn't that scary. It's more silly than terrifying. But, Pee-wee's dream sequence, where he imagines himself being operated on by sadistic clowns, is genuinely scary. And the thing is, this scene never really bothered me as a kid, even though my wife tells me it inspired her fear of clowns in adulthood. But, watching it today, it is scary, and I'm just noticing that now.
So Many Women Are Simping For Pee-Wee
I know this is part of the humor, but so many women are simping for Pee-wee. First, you have Dottie, who keeps flirting with him throughout the film (thankfully, they end up together at the end). Then, you have the waitress, Simone, who doesn't so much have a thing for Pee-wee as much as she loves his tender soul. Too bad her boyfriend doesn't see it the same way, though, as he chases Pee-wee around.
And then, you have the famous bar scene, where Pee-wee puts on some platform shoes and dances to the song, "Tequila." Prior to that legendary moment, the motorcycle gang's sole woman says she wants to have her way with Pee-wee (very child-friendly, by the way), before they tear Pee-wee apart for knocking down all of their motorcycles. Speaking of that woman…
Not Only That, But Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) Is Also In This Movie
Did you know that Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, is in this movie? It's not in the scenes where Pee-wee is on the studio lot in his climactic bike chase (you know, the scene where Godzilla is fighting one of his best enemies, King Ghidorah).
No, it's actually in the aforementioned “Tequila” moment, where a woman says she wants to have her way with Pee-wee before the other members of the motorcycle gang rip him apart. I would have had no idea that it was her if I hadn't checked out the cast when I saw that Cassandra Peterson was in this movie, and that she was in that particular scene. Wow!
I Actually Wouldn't Mind Seeing A Full Cut Of That Pee-Wee Movie At The End
And finally, I always used to vividly remember parts of this movie from my childhood, but the one that left probably the biggest impact was the movie at the end that was supposedly made about Pee-wee's actual adventure. You know, the movie within the movie.
Of course it's all played for laughs, making Pee-wee out to be a tough guy portrayed by James Brolin. Pee-wee himself even has a role as a bellhop, but his voice has been dubbed over. And, while I know no real movie like that exists, I would love to actually see a longer, more meta version of Pee-wee's Big Adventure, but all McGruber-like. I think that would be awesome.
What are some thoughts that you have of Pee-wee's Big Adventure? For more news on weird '80s movies, make sure to swing by often!
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.