Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985)Large Marge sent me.
I have a clear memory of seeing Pee Wee's Big Adventure
for the first time. My best friend and I were watching it on the small television in his bedroom. I was six; he was seven. He had already seen it once, and during the truck driver scene he grinned at me in mischievous anticipation of my reaction to the shocking, googly-eyed apparition we would come to know as Large Marge's ghost. It was the original Screamer,
and it scared the crap out of me.
This movie made it onto my list not only because of the trauma that experience burned into my psyche, but because I probably saw it a hundred times after that day. Like any sensible child of the 80s, I was subsequently a fan of Pee Wee and his Playhouse
, but the movie, thanks to Tim Burton, was better.
Watching it all the way through for the first time in over fifteen years, I was happy to see that the film stands up to the test of time. All of my favorite parts were still hilarious (Tequila!
), and strangeness of it is even more strange now that Pee Wee's pop relevance has dramatically decreased, despite his recent come back
. Who was this weird little man, I found myself asking, and why did our parents let us watch him?
The dark humor running throughout remains the movie's most interesting quality. In retrospect, much of my own ideas about comedy stemmed from those initial experiences with this film. It occurred to me that my fascination with John Waters, for instance, was nothing more than an extension of my love for Burton's humor. Think about it - if John Waters made family films, would they be that different in tone than Pee Wee's Big Adventure
? See Hairspray
and Cry Baby
It was a fun ride down memory lane, and a great way to kick off the 30/30 Movie Extravaganza. As a side note, one thing I didn't get as a kid was that the plot parodied that of Ladri di biciclette
, another one of the films on my list, though Pee Wee's take on the simple tale was about as far from Neo-realism as one can get.