It’s been nearly thirty years since Pee-wee Herman first debuted on TV in his HBO special. Since then, Paul Reubens’ cherubic proto-adult has enjoyed a great deal of success with an Emmy-award winning series, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, and a pair of films, including the Tim Burton-directed Pee-wee's Big Adventure. Despite some legal troubles in the 90s and 2000s, Herman brought the character back to the stage in 2010 thanks to continued fan interest.
Still, rumors of Pee-wee’s return to film and screen have persisted. In the late '90s, Reubens reportedly wrote a more adult, dark comedy version of Pee-wee, as well as a family friendly version. More recently, rumors leaked out that Judd Apatow was connected to produce the renewed project. This rumor was somewhat confirmed when Paul Reubens teased that a new Pee-wee film was forthcoming - something Netflix confirmed after securing rights to the new film.
Netflix recently gave fans their first taste of Pee-wee’s Big Holiday. The teaser (watch it above) is only a brief, forty second glimpse, but it’s packed with a whole lot of familiar sights. It begins with a familiar shot of Pee-wee’s house, and the charming naïf waking to greet the day. Herman, as per usual, has rigged a Rube Goldberg device to pull him out of bed. This time, however, rather than starting his day, viewers are rocketed off the roof as the teaser cuts-away to him in a car. The clip ends with our titular protagonist taking pictures of a stoplight, claiming that it's “just like I’ve seen in National Geographic.”
Filming on Pee-wee’s big update began last March, with John Lee (Inside Amy Schumer) directing a story based on Reubens’ and Rusk’s script. Holiday stars Reubens, David Arquette,Tara Buck, Joe Manganiello, Jessica Pohly, Alia Shawkat, and Stephanie Beatriz, among others, although the specifics of their roles are still a mystery. The film will debut at SXSW in March, along with the Preacher pilot, before being released to general Netflix audiences on March 18th. And although little has been revealed about the exact story, the film synopsis teases Pee-wee’s “fateful meeting with a mysterious stranger inspires Pee-wee Herman to take his first-ever holiday in this epic story of friendship and destiny.”
We can surmise from both the synopsis and the teaser, that Pee-wee is headed off on a wacky vacation filled with the same type of colorful characters he met along his Big Adventure. This time, though, it looks like Pee-wee swapped his trademark souped-up bicycle, for what looks like a classic Volkswagen Beetle (which is somehow fitting). While Pee-wee didn’t need his own car to get around the country before, given the range of motion allowed by his car, the imaginative man-child could wind up anywhere at this point. Speculation as to where Pee-wee vacations and who plays the ‘mysterious stranger’ will likely keep fans guessing up until the release date.
One thing’s for sure; the cinematography, the vibrant colors, and the tone of the film feel very familiar, hearkening back to the glory days of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) and Big Top Pee-wee (1986). However, there is one very noteworthy alteration. The film, unsurprisingly, appears to use some digital trickery in addition to the '80s-style practical effects. Pee-wee’s return could spell a legitimate revival for the character or could wind up another jaded attempt to cash in on a once-popular character. We’re hoping for the former.
Pee-wee’s Big Holiday arrives on Netflix March 18th, 2016.