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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 6/22/00

Pee-wee's Big Adventure
1985 (2000) - Warner Bros.

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Pee Wee's Big Adventure Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/A-/A-

Specs and Features

90 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 1:01:30 in chapter 21), Snapper case packaging, commentary by director Tim Burton and star Paul Reubens, isolated film score with commentary by composer Danny Elfman, deleted scenes with text-based intros, cast and crew biographies/filmographies, production notes, theatrical trailer, animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and French (DD Mono), subtitles: English and French, Closed Captioned

"I know you are but what am I?"

A boy and his bike - can you think of anything cuter? Yeah, I can too, but Pee-wee's Big Adventure is still an entertaining little film, that is as intriguing as it is wonderfully bizarre. With such an unusual aura about it, this story was perfect for first-time feature director Tim Burton to hone his unique skill. He manages to create a kind of world normally only seen when we shut our eyes very tightly, and then open them to see our surroundings in a reverse-polarized, perverse light.

Happy-go-lucky, eccentric man-child Pee-wee Herman (played by Paul Reubens) loves his bike more than anything else in the world. After a day of shopping for boomerang bow ties and trick gum (yes, this is the kind of guy we're talking about here), Pee-wee discovers that his precious bike has been stolen. A brief stint of hysteria sets into Pee-wee's mind, and at the guidance of a phony psychic, our hero travels to the Alamo - more specifically, the Alamo's basement - to find his stolen bike. Uh-oh, I smell a road trip! Me also thinks a fish-out-of-water plot is brewing as well.

Along the way Pee-wee encounters an escaped con with a real bad temper and a hatred for mattress tags, Large Marge the phantom trucker, a rodeo, and a surprisingly supportive biker gang. Will Pee-wee make it in one piece, and will he ever be reunited with the neatest bike in the world? If you're enough of a loner and a rebel, you might just find out.

When you get right down to it, Pee-wee's Big Adventure is a pretty simple film. The plot is lightweight, and the characters are much more cartoonish than actual human beings. But that's just Tim Burton. For me, this film has always been about curiosity. I mean, it really is a pretty dopey movie, but you can't help but to be taken in by it's childish shenanigans. This flick is about effective mood setting, completely original characters, and yes... even artful execution. But that's just Tim Burton.

The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen picture on this DVD is pleasant. Colors are bold and striking without oversaturation. Fleshtones are natural, and the transfer exhibits a pleasing black level with good picture detail. The disc does contain a noticeable amount of compression pixelization and slight edge enhancement. Darker scenes appear somewhat muddy, like chapter 21 in the biker bar. The newly remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack sports smooth dialog and nice sound effect integration, but is a bit on the thin side - nothing too distracting, though. The real star of the soundtrack is the deliciously playful score by Danny Elfman. The music is dispersed throughout the listening environment and boasts excellent fidelity and range.

Fans of Pee-wee's Big Adventure are treated to a full-length screen-specific commentary track by Tim Burton and Paul Reubens. While not exploding with enthusiasm and laughter (these guys are pretty low-key and soft-spoken), it is an interesting track hi-lighting the origins of the Pee-wee Herman character, the genesis of the film, and many other fun anecdotes about the making of this wacky movie. It's definitely worth a listen. Danny Elfman fanatics (like myself) will find the isolated score with commentary by Mr. Elfman himself a real pleasure. During breaks in the music, Elfman discusses his personal history and contributions to this film. A set of three deleted scenes and an extension of the ending chase scene also appear on this disc. If you think the movie is kinda weird and wacky, just wait until you see these scenes - they're even more extreme than the film. Finally, the requisite cast and crew biographies/filmographies are available (even for the writers), along with production notes and the theatrical trailer.

If you're up for a little childish rambunctiousness, look no further than Pee-wee's Big Adventure. It will amuse and annoy at the same time, but in a good way. I dare you not to be at least a little bit entertained. Don't hesitate to pick this one up - just tell 'em Large Marge sent ya...

Greg Suarez

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