It has been some time since Paul Rubens donned the gray suit and red bow-tie as his alter ego Pee-wee Herman. While Rubens has performed numerous voice actor work in various cartoons and video games, he has taken small roles for television and film, and made only brief appearances as his famous alter ego. Yet, you can’t keep a good Pee-wee down, and now on Netflix, Pee-wee Herman returns in a new feature film, ‘Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday’.
Written by Paul Rubens and Paul Rust, who also writes and stars in the Netflix comedy series “Love”, ‘Pee-wee’s Big Holiday’ sets Pee-wee as a beloved resident of Fairville. As wonderful as his life is, Pee-wee meets “True Blood” and “Magic Mike”actor Joe Manganiello, playing himself. Manganiello and Pee-wee immediately are kindred spirits, and Joe influences Pee-wee to leave Fairville for the first time, and go on an adventure all the way to New York to attend Joe’s big birthday party. So Pee-wee packs up his tiny car and heads out on his holiday, full of hi-jinks and unusual meetings including a trio of female bank robbers, the Amish, and a farmer with nine daughters all with an eye for Mr. Herman. As he travels the clock ticks away as Joe Manganiello’s birthday approaches.
While for some seeing Paul Rubens portraying Pee-Wee Herman once again is sentimental, ‘Pee-wee’s Big Holiday’ just doesn’t have the same magic or charm as the more famous and beloved “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure”. Rubens slips back into the suit with ease and plays the part of Pee-wee as fans remember, as if time has stood still or Rubens. The look, the quirky attitude, and the wacky gadgets are all there, but the adventure is far from fun or memorable. Sure the characters are kind of strange but the weirdness and comedy feels forced and with no point.
Most of the actors feel as if they are just phoning their performances, like just being in the same film as Pee-wee Herman was enough. Joe Manganiello feels a little out of place in this comedy but it is humorous to see him acting way off from what people are use to. Alia Shawkat, from “Arrested Development” fame, plays Bella, one of the trio of bank robbers. Alia tries but you can tell she didn’t put her whole heart into the role. In truth, the only one who really appears as if they are really into their character and trying to make an enjoyable film is Paul Rubens himself.
Excitement for another Pee-wee Herman film had been close to non existent. For some, seeing Paul Rubens as Pee-wee Herman hits the heart and brings us back to our childhood. For others he’s just a strange man famous for acting strange. Those who loved Pee-wee Herman in “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” and the Tim Burton directed “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” will be sorely disappointed in this latest Herman film. ‘Pee-wee’s Big Holiday’ misses what it was like to have heart, odd but hysterical comedy, and characters that fans will always remember. Although the film is titled ‘Pee-wee’s Big Holiday’, the better adventures were in the original film, so fans should stay with those memories.