Tag Archives: Pee Wee Herman

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

It’s Guilty Pleasure Friday again, and I needed to add one more movie to the list of Strange Films You Watched as a Child.  I can’t believe I forgot this one!  So, it’s getting it’s very own post on Guilty Pleasures.

     Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

     IMDB describes this movie as: Eccentric man-child Pee-Wee Herman embarks on the big adventure of his life across the US mainland, as he sets out to find his beloved bike, when it is stolen in broad daylight.

He’s childish, naive, a crazy inventor, and his favorite thing in the whole world is his bike.  When Pee Wee gets a visit from his arch-nemesis, Francis Buxton, he learns not only is it Francis’ birthday, but that his one birthday wish is to have Pee Wee’s bike.

Imagine his great surprise then, when in broad daylight, while Pee Wee is buying a new bike horn, his bike is stolen!  A man without his bicycle is no man at all.  So Pee Wee sets out on a cross-country adventure to track down his sweet ride.

This mission is no easy task.  If Pee Wee wants his bike back, he’ll have to wage a war against super scary clowns, meet with a psychic, hitchhike with Large Marge, get to the Alamo, survive a rodeo, work as a dishwasher, outrun Andy the jealous boyfriend, crash through a couple of Hollywood film sets, pretend to be a nun, and battle Francis.

Here are a few great scenes you may remember.  (Technical issue:  Some of the clips require a second clink on the youtube link to view.  Sorry for the inconvenience, but enjoy the clips!)

Pee Wee’s Bike Flip

I Know You Are But What Am I?  (I know I used this tactic against my siblings on occasion.)

Pee Wee Battles Francis

Large Marge

Tequila!

And then there are the quotes to remember.  I don’t know about your house, but we quoted a lot of these at mine.

Mr. Breakfast: Good morning, Pee-wee!
Pee-wee: Good morning, Mr. Breakfast!
Mr. Breakfast: Can I have some Mr. T cereal?
Pee-wee: Okay!
[imitates Mr. T as he prepares his Mr. T cereal]
Pee-wee: I pity the poor fool who don’t eat my cereal!

Pee-wee: There’s a lotta things about me you don’t know anything about, Dottie. Things you wouldn’t understand. Things you couldn’t understand. Things you shouldn’t understand.
Dottie: I don’t understand.
Pee-wee: You don’t wanna get mixed up with a guy like me. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel. So long, Dott.

Pee-wee: The mind plays tricks on you. You play tricks back! It’s like you’re unraveling a big cable-knit sweater that someone keeps knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting…

Simone: I know you’re right, Pee-wee, but…
Pee-wee: But what? Everyone I know has a big “But…? C’mon, Simone, let’s talk about *your* big “But”.

Pee-wee: What did you do?
Mickey: Well, I lost my temper and I took a knife and I uh-. Do you know those “Do Not Remove Under the Penalty of Law” labels they put on mattresses?
Pee-wee: Yeah.
Mickey: Well I CUT one of them off!
Pee-wee: Jee.
Mickey: Yeah, I have a real bad temper.
Pee-wee: Boy, I always thought that was the dumbest law.

What makes Pee Wee’s Big Adventure so iconic is the story behind the creation.  Pee Wee played by Paul Reubens began the The Pee Wee Herman Show after failing to make the cast for Saturday Night Live.   He received $3000 from his parents and support from the acting group, The Groundlings, and set up The Pee Wee Herman Show in the Roxy Theater.  It was sold out immediately.  Interestingly enough, he’s hosted for SNL a number of times as Pee Wee Herman.

Photo courtesy The Distracted Globe

The original idea for a Pee Wee Herman movie was a take on Disney’s Pollyanna, a feel good movie where Pee Wee moves into a sleepy little town and makes everyone happy.  But when touring the set, Paul Reubens noticed everyone there had a bicycle.  Suddenly they were starting from square one.  Once Tim Burton got involved, the rest is history.  The wacky sense of art direction that is typical Burton got an early start with Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which was made three years before Beetlejuice and five years before Edward Scissorhands.

Critics loved Big Adventure.  It did receive a PG rating in the end, which I credit a nod to Burton’s influence, but the humor appealed to kids and had subtle jokes for parents too.  It had adventure, comedy, romance, and let’s face it, great lines of dialogue for fighting childishly.  “I know you are, but what am I?”

Do you remember watching Pee Wee’s Big Adventure?  Or Pee Wee’s Playhouse?  Ever get into a fight with your own Francis Buxton?  What are your favorite scenes in this movie?  Or perhaps you’d like to take a moment and tell me about your big “But”.

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