By Aaron Hillis
In the manically imaginative and very funny Pee-wee's Big Holiday -- Paul Reubens' first movie as the easily amused man-child since his 1991 indecent exposure arrest set off an idiotic array of career-stalling media attention -- it's as if the Hollywood Walk of Famer was never a farmer-inventor in Big Top Pee-wee who would eventually trek cross-country in search of his bike. Surprisingly produced by super-fan Judd Apatow, and even more surprisingly directed by John Lee (whose subversive work on Wonder Showzen and The Heart, She Holler is decidedly not family-friendly), the new film begins by mapping out small-town Fairville -- a fictional all-American construct of mid-century gee-whizziness -- with a Rube Goldberg-esque tour by dirigible, skis, tiny car and skateboard. 2016's version of Pee-wee works as a fry cook at the local diner.

Enter the catalyst to escape his comfort zone: When a motorcycle-riding hunk (Magic Mike's Joe Manganiello) rolls up for a milkshake, he and our high-pitched hero hit it off immediately over their mutual love for root-beer barrel candy and excessively literal wordplay. Needless to say, Pee-wee is back on another zany road odyssey that leads him to Amish country, a snake farm, into the air with a woman who could be a Katharine Hepburn impersonator playing Amelia Earhart and kidnapped by a bank-robbing trio of switchblade-wielding sexpots who play cheeky homage to Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Reubens is 63 in real life, and admits that his rouge-rosy face and taped-back neck have been digitally retouched to appear as youthful as ever, but he hasn't lost any steam as a performer of great heart and wit. During the movie, I literally cried tears of joy.


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