I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started out making a serious film about a mental disability only to discover in the editing room that I’d accidentally made a comedy. The line between hilarity and tragedy is very fine when it comes to re-Tards (© Zack Galafinakis™). Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is a prime example.
Pee-Wee Herman is an unpinned grenade of fucked-up. He’s got obsessive compulsive disorder, a low stress tolerance, horrible social skills, Tourette syndrome, and schizophrenia, all of which led him to castrate himself after reading the bible at a very young age, which led him to never grow up.
To make matters worse, his ultra-wealthy parents decided to indulge his sick whims rather than have him professionally treated. In other words, Pee-Wee is unmedicated and unfamiliar with the word ‘no’. This might not be so bad except his parents had him when they were in their sixties. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure takes place the day after their funeral, the day after Pee-Wee’s only connection to reality was severed forever.
Of course, you Pee-Wee heads don’t know any of this. I realized early enough which side of the comedy/tragedy line Pee-Wee landed and cut accordingly. The same thing occured when I made Mrs. Doubtfire. Sometimes the opposite even happens. Leaving Los Vegas was supposed to be a feel-good romantic comedy. And Crash was supposed to be this generation’s Blazing Saddles.
Anyway, Pee-Wee is already using and abusing people before the film even begins. As he sleeps amid a bed-full of oversized toys, Bill Nye is downstairs creating a Rube Goldberg machine that will cook Pee-Wee’s breakfast for him. When Pee-Wee wakes up he starts the machine, but the little shit doesn’t even stay to watch the genius thing work. Instead he’s in the bathroom taping his nose up and making dog noises. And when the breakfast is finally ready, a marvel of modern engineering, Pee-Wee just makes voices at it. The whole thing makes Bill Nye cry a lot, which is exactly the sort of thing that causes typhoons in third-world countries, bitch.
To treat more people like shit, Pee-Wee’s gonna need transportation, and this is where the real film begins. Despite his millions of toys, the only item of any worth to Pee-Wee is his bicycle. His grandparents built a special garage just for it and installed a million dollar security system. Pee-Wee won’t even touch it until he’s washed his hands four times, avoided stepping on any cracks for an hour, and sacrificed human guts to both major Captains: Kangaroo AND Crunch.
With his bike out, Pee-Wee can now go to the shopping center. The first store he visits is a novelty/magic shop owned by Amazing Larry. Normally, Pee-Wee shows up, takes what he wants, and Larry bills his parents later. But now that Pee-Wee’s parents are dead, Amazing Larry doesn’t know what to do. Should he let Pee-Wee take what he wants for free? Or should Amazing Larry cut Pee-Wee off, risking a violent public meltdown? Amazing Larry, along with everyone else in this movie, chooses the former, safer route. Pee-Wee steals some stupid shit, then leaves. Larry sighs in relief.
Next, Pee-Wee goes to the bike shop to get a new horn. A girl named Dottie works there. She has a crush on Pee-Wee, which seems pretty odd until you hear her voice and see the way she dresses and begin to realize that she probably got more than just nuggies from her uncle(s?) when she was a kid. In a way, she and Pee-Wee make a perfect couple. She asks him out, but he doesn’t know what that means. And even if he did, the words “adult” and “female” are probably not the kind of thing Pee-Wee would ever search for on Redtube.
Meanwhile, Amazing Larry runs to the local mafia to complain about Pee-Wee. The mafia gets all the local business owners to chip in on a “Steal Pee-Wee’s Bike to Get Him Outta Our Town” plot. The plot works. When Pee-Wee finally leaves the bike shop he finds that he no longer has a bike to shop for. Pee-Wee shits a brack (2 bricks shat at once).
As you can imagine, Pee-Wee is dangerous. He throws together an investigation, but the locals only want to drag their feet. The cops won’t help either. The only people who seem to care are Dottie, who Pee-Wee doesn’t like, and a ringer psychic, who takes all of Pee-Wee’s money and tells him to look for his bike at the Alamo. So Pee-Wee shoves Dottie’s face away and heads towards Texas.
Everyone breathes a huge sigh of relief once he’s gone. Then the bombs Pee-Wee requested his parents buy and install all over town go off. Everyone dies. Especially Dottie.
On this way to the Alamo, Pee-Wee comes across many characters who would be considered wild and zany were this not already a Pee-Wee movie: an escaped convict, a claymation lesbian ghost, plastic dinosaurs, Bluto from Popeye, and a gang of bikers. Each of them assume Pee-Wee is nice and offer to help only to find too late that Pee-Wee is a huge asshole who just wants to yell and laugh at you and look at you like you’re weird even though he’s the weirdest thing since unsliced bread.
When he does not find his bike at the Alamo, Pee-Wee burns the historic building to the ground (which finally sets Davy Crockett’s soul free). This upsets Texas. In retaliation, Texas attempts to kill Pee-Wee by putting him in a rodeo. This works and Pee-Wee is dead. Except he’s not dead because his rich, elderly parents had the Holy Grail shipped from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pee-Wee can never die. In retaliation, Pee-Wee gives Texas a stick of joke gum which causes oil to run out its mouth until Texas dies.
President Bush pt.1, stricken by the death of his brother, Texas, sends his other brother, Ernest P. Worrell, to kill Pee-Wee. In a move calculated to anger and intimidate his opponent, Ernest threatens him while riding a replica of his beloved bike. “Get off my bike, Ern-NEST!” Pee-Wee demands.
“Make me. KnowhatImean?” replies Ernest.
“I don’t make monkeys,” Pee-Wee screams. “I just burn ‘em!”
It’s the battle of the century!!! Pee-Wee attacks Ernest with a barrage of scary clowns, angular spirals, and mischievous Danny Elfman music!
But Ernest is from Tennessee, Missouri, and he’ll be damned if he’s gonna take shit from some nine year old bow tie wearing eunuch. His whole posse is there: Army Hick, Old Lady with Neckbrace Hick, Snake Handler Hick, Doctor Otto, Jed Clampett, and, of course, Vern.
Their epic war takes them to the Warner Bros. backlot where they disrupt the making to many Hollywood picture shows. Before long the fight includes a bevy of security guards, Wayne Arnold, Godzilla, Santa Clause, and Twisted Sister. Things are getting out of hand, and they don’t seem to be slowing down because Pee-Wee’s invincible and Ernest is a badass. It’s like the Civil War all over again.
To solve this problem, and to end the movie, meta steps are taken. Just when the war is about to swallow Hollywood whole, I step out of an office building and break it up with movie contracts. Pee-Wee gets one, and Ernest gets one. For Pee-Wee I bring out a cartoon character called Tim Burton to direct his films (this was back when cartoons mixed with live action was popular). Everyone is happy.
Sure that’s the end of the film, but we all know it’s not the end of the story. Ernest went on to make a handful of successful films. Then he got in a fight with Slingblade and and was sliced in half. I found this news difficult to accept because I’d heard he had a near genius intellect and I wanted to breed him with Winnie Cooper so I could adopt the baby. Oh well.
Pee-Wee’s first film under the contract, Big Top Pee-Wee, was a flop and his career was over soon after when he was arrested for participating in eunuch porn, which we consider illegally gross over here in the States. Oddly enough, the real success of this story is that fictional cartoon director, Tim Burton. He went on to make all kinds of great movies. Way to go, Kid! I was wrong about what you’d amount to!
Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey