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Blu-ray Review Pee-wee's Big Adventure Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Ken_McAlinden

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Capsule/Summary ****


Pee-wee's Big Adventure is a consistently humorous cinematic mind meld between Paul Reubens and first time feature director Tim Burton. It arrives on Blu-ray with an impressive audio-video presentation and all of the special features from its earlier DVD release in equivalent or better quality.



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Pee-Wee's Big Adventure



Directed By: Tim Burton

Starring: Pee-wee Herman, Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton, Diane Salinger, Judd Omen, Alice Nunn, Erica Yohn










Studio: Warner Bros.



Year: 1985



Rated: PG



Aspect Ratio: 16:9



Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French



Release Date: October 4, 2011








In Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Pee-wee Herman plays himself (actually, Paul Reubens plays Pee-wee, but since the credits do not admit this, I will go along with it for one paragraph). Perennially bow-tied man-child Pee-wee has his life turned upside-down when his beloved bicycle is stolen by spoiled rich-boy man-child Francis Buxton (Holton). Pee-wee's single minded determination to retrieve the stolen bike (along with some questionable direction from a phony psychic played by Erica Yohn) leads him on a cross country road trip where he crosses paths with an escaped convict (Omen), a creepy trucker (Nunn), a friendly waitress (Salinger), a bar full of bikers, and numerous other colorful characters.



Whenever I watch Pee-wee's Big Adventure, an event that occurs more frequently than I care to admit, I begin to assemble a list in the back of my mind of all of the reasons I should not be enjoying it. The list usually starts off with something like:


  1. Inherent creepiness of a grown man acting like a child

  2. Beyond pointless plot that frequently goes nowhere

  3. ...



...and then I can never remember what comes next because I am laughing too hard.



Perhaps the film's greatest asset is Paul Reubens' total commitment to the Pee-wee Herman character which he had been playing for four years, give or take, on the stage and small screen prior to the film's production. The screenplay, co-written by Reubens, Phil Hartman, and Michael Varhol, tones down the racier innuendo from the Pee-wee Herman Show stage production, but mixes an undercurrent of darkness with the childish humor that proves to be a perfect fit for director Tim Burton's visual sensibilities. Burton and his production team create several appropriately live action cartoonish settings for Pee-wee's antics. Impressively for a first time feature director, the talented, if not particularly famous, supporting cast all come across as in tune with the film's skewed perspective as Reubens himself.



The film is so episodic in nature that one is tempted to discuss particular sequences in detail when reviewing it, but since doing so usually involves spoiling a gag or two, I am going to resist that temptation. Suffice it to say that the variety of comedic set-pieces and vignettes feature many more hits than misses with respect to their ability to surprise and amuse.

The Video ****½


The video comes courtesy of an AVC encoded 1080p presentations approximating the film's original theatrical aspect ratio by filling the entire 16:9 enhanced frame. I honestly could not imagine the film looking any better than it does on this Blu-ray disc. The only weakness in the presentation stems from the 80s film stock on which the movie was shot which exhibits contrast that falls off to black a bit quicker than most modern film stocks. The film was lit with this in mind and the Blu-ray conveys this cinematic intent quite well with minimal to no digital video artifacts and a natural, film-like appearance with modest grain intact.

The Audio ****


Audio comes courtesy of a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that improves over the prior DVD release in non-subtle ways thanks to the lossless encoding, which particularly benefits Danny Elfman's whimsical swirling music score. Fidelity is so good that discerning listeners can clearly here subtle variations in the way pieces of original score and borrowed bits of orchestral incidental music were recorded. Dialog is generally centered, and sound effects are mostly comfined to the front hemisphere of the 5.1 sound field with the surrounds reserved for an extension of Elfman's score. Alternate Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks are available in French and Castillan Spanish. An alternate Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track is available in Latin Spanish.

The Extras ***½


Extras are identical in content to the previous DVD release minus a couple of text screen based features on the cast, crew, and writers. All video-based extras are presented in AVC-encode 4:3 480i video with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio unless otherwise indicated below:



Commentary by Tim Burton and Paul Reubens features Burton in the left stereo channel and Reubens on the right. For two men who have created such creative and twisted work over the years, the commentary proves surprisingly low-key. It is almost weird how normal they sound. That being said, they convey a decent amount of interesting information about the film's production. My favorite bit comes late in the film/commentary when Burton can't help but be amused by the deliberately terrible film acting of the Pee-wee character when he plays a bit role in a movie within the movie.



Theatrical Trailer (1:30 - 16:9 enhanced video) presents the film's original theatrical trailer which gives a fair reckoning of the film free of marketing mis-direction, but must have thrown contemporary audiences unfamiliar with the Pee-wee character for quite a loop.



Music Only Track with Commentary by Danny Elfman is upgraded a bit from the previous DVD by presenting the Dolby Digital 5.1 music at a higher (640kbps) bitrate, and the audio improvement is noticeable. It ain't lossless, but it ain't bad. Elfman provides efficient commentary during the surprisingly brief intervals where there is no film music, discussing topics related to both his specific involvement in Pee-wee's Big Adventure as well as his approach to scoring films in general.



Production Sketches and Storyboards (11:26) features a montage of a few production drawings/plans followed by a generous collection of storyboards, all accompanied by an informative audio essay by Production Designer David L. Snyder who discusses his fondness for the film, elaborates on various aspects of the production and explains what exactly a Production Designer does. One set of storyboards is for a deleted scene set in a western town.



Deleted Scenes (11:07 w/Play All) are viewable separately or via a "Play All" selection. The scenes, along with the text descriptions that precede them, are as follows:

  • Amazing Larry - The character of Amazing Larry was originally introduced to Pee-wee at the magic shop. Now only a glance of Amazing Larry and his new hairstyle can be seen during the basement scene.

  • Boone the Bear - Pee-Wee meets Boone the Bear after his mishap at the biker bar

  • Hospital Visitors - After his accident with the motorcycle, Pee-wee gets some visitors at the hospital. The doctor in this scene is the same one performing surgery on the bicycle in Pee-wee's dream.

  • Extended Studio Chase - The studio chase originally revealed even more of the Warner Brothers backlot and also pays off Pee-wee's purchase of the boomerang bow tie earlier in the film.


Packaging


The disc is enclosed in a standard sized Blu-ray case with die cut holes to reduce plastic use. Cover art and graphics are a slight rearrangement of the art that was used for the 2000 DVD release.
 

Ronald Epstein

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Ken,


Pee Wee's Big Adventure has always been a guilty pleasure of mine.


I recently picked up this title and have to agree with your review that the

transfer looks quite good.


I am highly recommending this purchase for fans.
 

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