Paul Reubens is now 63 years old. His TV show Pee-wee’s Playhouse ran from 1986 to 1990, and his two feature films, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (directed by Tim Burton) and Big Top Pee-wee, were released in 1985 and 1988, respectively. Since then, he has played Pee-wee Herman a few times on TV and on stage and in cameos, but it has been a long time since Pee-wee had any kind of long-form program. For the new feature Pee-wee’s Big Holiday (2016), a Netflix original that premiered March 18, Reubens required some makeup and digital magic to appear as the ageless character. His voice is no longer as flexible as it once was (he can’t do the laugh anymore), but otherwise, Pee-wee is back!
He’s a strange soul, good-hearted, but very weird, and certainly capable of selfishness, self-pity, and cowardice. But when he’s good, he’s very good: an admirable, kind-hearted fellow. Living in his small town of Fairville, having never been anywhere else, he—weirdly—befriends actor Joe Manganiello, who walks into the diner where Pee-wee works. Joe invites Pee-wee to his birthday party in New York, and encourages Pee-wee to take a road trip to get there. Of course, he meets all kinds of oddballs, some of them very funny, and others just a tad questionable (such as a farmer with nine chubby daughters, and a group of quasi-stereotypical hairdressers). The movie seems to strain a bit to achieve its 90 minutes, but many of the scenes are delightful, and fans will be happy. (Non-fans, however, needn’t bother.)