Pee-wee's Big Adventure

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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.
—Pee-wee, describing himself

The 1985 big-screen adaptation of Paul Reubens' nightclub comedy act (which later inspired Pee-wee's Playhouse), starring Pee-wee Herman As Himself.

One day, Pee-wee's treasured bike is stolen by a rival man-child. Desperate to get it back, he embarks on a cross country journey, meeting many bizarre characters along the way (and considering the sort of guy Pee-wee Herman is, that's one hell of a mouthful).

Notable for launching the careers of Tim Burton and Danny Elfman (his film composer career, anyway), though Reubens was the real person in-charge. A lesser-known factoid is that much of the film's atmosphere is based on the 1982 no-budget cult film Forbidden Zone: Burton and Reubens were both huge fans of the film, and their decision to hire Danny Elfman was based on his work with the Forbidden Zone group. The movie was written by Reubens and the late great Phil Hartman.

Tropes used in Pee-wee's Big Adventure include:
  • Adult Child: Pee-wee of course, as well as Francis.
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: "Satan's Helpers". Subverted when Pee-wee makes friends with them.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Yes, Mr. T breakfast cereal actually existed.
  • Apathetic Citizens: The movie clearly establishes the strip mall Pee Wee visits is busy - with hordes of people walking around, riding bikes and skateboards. However evidently no one seems to have said anything about a person cutting a hundred pounds of chain off of a bike and leaving with it.
  • Bad Bad Acting: In the Show Within a Show that ends the film, Pee-Wee mouths the actor's lines along with him and keeps glancing at the camera. At one point he can be seen glancing at the director off camera and then sliding partially out of frame.
  • Bad Guy Bar: Home of "Satan's Helpers".
  • Beware of Hitch-Hiking Ghosts: Inverted. The passenger isn't a ghost, but the driver is.
  • Bull Seeing Red: Andy goes after Pee-Wee, who is riding a bull. The bull sees Andy's red shirt and chases him right out of the movie.
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: Pee-wee, when hitchhiking through the desert at night.
  • The Cameo:
    • Twisted Sister is recording a music video during Pee-wee's chase across the backlots.
    • Pee-wee hides in Milton Berle's entourage while he tells the punchline to a joke.
    • James Brolin and Morgan Fairchild play "P.W." and Dottie, respectively, in the fake movie at the end.
    • In-Universe Pee-Wee has a cameo as the bellhop in the movie based on him.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: The magic shop. The only item to not see use in the movie was the Boomerang Bowtie (it's a Deleted Scene).
  • Contrived Coincidence: All the so-called "clues" just happen to lead Pee-Wee to where he needs to go.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment:

Lead biker: I say, we kill him.
Rest of the gang: Yeah!
Biker #2: I say we hang him then we kill him.
Rest of the gang: Yeah!
Biker #3: I say we scalp him!
Gang: Yeah!
Biker #3: Then we tattoo him!
Gang: Yeah!
Biker #3: Then we hang him!
Gang: Yeah!
Biker #3: And then we kill him!
Gang: Yeah!
Pee-Wee (in a tiny voice): I say we let him go.
Biker gang: NO!

Pee-wee: I want to see Francis!
Butler: Francis is busy.
Pee-wee: Busy doing what?!
Butler: He is taking his bath.
Pee-wee: Oh really, WHERE ARE THEY HOSIN' HIM DOWN?!

  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: The boomerang bow tie, even after it gets more dialogue than the things that were used.

Mario: And direct from Australia... The Boomerang Bow-Tie!
Pee-wee: Come in red?
Mario: [Mario pulls out a red boomerang bow-tie]

Hooligan: Hey, you're new around here! We don't take kindly to strangers on our turf!
[Pee-wee hisses as a flash of lightning lights up the night; the gangbangers flee in terror]

Mickey: You get to lift weights, watch TV, write up appeals, take long showers, lift weights. You get used to it.

  • Real After All: Large Marge.
  • Rent-A-Zilla: Arguably subverted here, as during Pee-wee's backlot chase scene the monster movie set he rides through features the actual Godzilla fighting the actual King Ghidorah, for which Warner Brothers was sued.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: What Pee-wee uses to make his breakfast.
  • Rules of the Road: Pee-wee passes increasingly absurd signs while driving at night.
  • Santa Claus: Santa Claus and Godzilla. Together at last!
  • Shout-Out: Large Marge is an homage to the classic ghost story of Big Joe. Unlike Marge, Joe is a friendly fella who doesn't try to scare his passengers and even gives them money to eat at the diner where he drops them off.
  • Show Within a Show: The movie based on Pee-wee's life at the end.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": In the DVD commentary, Reubens points out that Pee-wee's flyer incorrectly capitalizes the "W" in "Pee-wee."
  • Survivors Guilt: During the scene when Pee-wee is wheeled out of the bike shop on a gurney, actress Elizabeth Daily's face went completely white. After filming the scene, Reubens asked her what was wrong and she replied to him that the scene had brought back painful memories of seeing her then-boyfriend, Jon-Erik Hexum, being wheeled off of a set on a gurney after accidentally and fatally shooting himself.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Pee-wee, in a bar full of murderous bikers: "Shhhh! I'm trying to use the phone!"
  • Uncanny Valley Makeup: The doctor who eviscerates Pee-wee's bike in his nightmare.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Pee-Wee's voice is dubbed when he makes his cameo in the movie based on his life. Needless to say, it sounds ridiculous.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: One of the animals sold in the burning pet shop are snakes, which Pee-Wee is rather squeamish about touching. When there's no other animals left to be saved (except for the fishes), he grabs as many as he can and runs out of the building screaming.
  • Work Off the Debt: Pee-wee washes dishes for his meal at a diner after discovering that he left his wallet at Madam Ruby's.