With Netflix becoming something of the reboot queen, it’s only natural that, in addition to the likes of Full House and Gilmore Girls, so, too, would Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) find a place on the evermore powerful film and TV outlet. The third film in his arsenal to follow up Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Big Top Pee-wee (the most misunderstood, perhaps, of the trio), Pee-wee’s Big Holiday finds us in contact with a much gentler, less adventurous suit-wearing hero.
Happily plodding along the streets of Fairville (presumably somewhere in the Midwest), Pee-wee goes to and from his job as a fry cook at Dan’s Diner every day followed by band practice with the Renegades. Tragically, Pee-wee is given some bad news while making eggs as his fellow three bandmates bombard him with verbalizations that they all have other commitments to adhere to during nights now–when the Renegades are supposed to practice. Crushed that no one sees the value in remaining consistent, one of the Renegades tells him, “That’s because you’re stuck in a rut Pee-wee. We want to move on to other things.” This sentiment serves as the crux of Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, with the obvious message being that everyone thinks you’re an unevolved loser if you prefer to never branch out and are contented with always doing the same thing. And yet, with Paul Rust’s (who makes a cameo as a diner patron) co-writing help, there is a flip side to this theme: adventure always makes you crave the familiar in the end.
But before Pee-wee can learn these lessons, he is still left embittered over being slighted by the Renegades, a wound that’s augmented by his boss, Dan (Richard Riehle), asking him if he can cover at the diner while he meets a couple pals at “the lodge” (one wants to believe this is an extremely subtle Twin Peaks reference, but is probably just Dan being a Freemason). Pee-wee seethes, “I’ll be right here. Just like always.” Left to ruminate in a routine he once found engaging, Pee-wee’s boredom is interrupted by none other than Joe Manganiello, who you initially think might be an actual character but is just, in fact, Joe Manganiello playing himself.
Intrigued by Pee-wee’s similar interests–particularly Root Beer Barrels–Manganiello decides that there is a reason the two of them met: so that Manganiello could inspire Pee-wee to break out of his addiction to habit. To lure him out of Fairville, Manganiello presents him with an invitation to his birthday party in New York and, with that, rides off on his motorcycle with the recommendation that Pee-wee travels by any means except plane (a mode that’s too straightforward when it comes to soul-searching).
Hesitant to leave the comforts of home, Pee-wee takes it as a sign when a “big apple” falls from the sky. From the outset, things take a dangerous turn while Pee-wee awaits in his car at a stoplight only to have a gang of bank robbing women named Pepper (Jessica Pohly), Freckles (Stephanie Beatriz) and, yes, Pee-wee (Alia Shawkat) hijack his trip so they can avoid the police. Suffice it to say, this is how his car ultimately gets stolen, leaving him to his own devices in terms of how to get east to New York, confirming Manganiello’s assurance that “a few days on the open road is worth a lifetime in Fairville.”
As Pee-wee encounters an array of the usual eclectic characters you would expect to find in his universe (though nothing compares to Large Marge from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure), he begins to grow acclimated to life outside of Fairville, even though a brief hiccup in the journey prompts him to bawl, “I wanted to find out who I was. Well, I found out all right. I’m a stupid little baby!” But then, we’ve all felt that way when far from home and faced with unprecedented challenges (like finding oneself in an Amish village or falling into a hole).
Though Pee-wee purists might not be impressed with the Apatow touch to this movie, the dialogue largely maintains its credibility, with classics like, “Why don’t you marry it?” and new gems such as, “Let me let you let me run” intermingling seamlessly. The only truly uncomfortable moment comes during a musical bit when Pee-wee first arrives in New York. It’s not really in keeping with the style of the originals, where singing was left to others, if at all.
In any case, depending on your outlook on life, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday will either confirm that you should never leave where you’re from or solidify that wanderlust you’ve been harboring.