Thursday, March 6, 2008

Pee-wee's Big Adventure

"Pee-wee's Big Adventure" (Tim Burton, 1985) Could there be two more kindred souls than Tim Burton and Paul Reubens? Well, beside Burton and Johnny Depp...or Michael Keaton? Burton had made only a couple short films before being given the candy store of trying to do something with the admittedly cultish figure of Pee-Wee Herman, and the two skipped, giggling, away with it. The ideas may be Reubens and co-screenwriter Phil Hartman's (...sigh), but Burton brings them to sub-adolescent life with animation, bizarre mechanics and stop-motion clay-animation, with more than a hint of the dark side that he would explore in his later films. As much as Reubens' Pee-wee is known for his antic behavior, its in moments when Herman is at his most frustrated and still, fire burning in his eyes that he's at his funniest. The movie becomes a bit frayed at 2/3 mark, as if everyone was getting just a little tired of the maintaining that much energy for so long, like their sugar buzz was wearing off, but the film has a fine final sequence that pokes fun at Pee-wee and his fantasies that's danged funny. For Burton's first full-length film, it's amazing that he could sustain the energy as long as he did.

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