I recently watched Pee Wee's Big Adventure for the first time in several years. We'd been looking for "new" movies for our kids to watch, and thought this would be perfect. To our surprise, not only was the movie great for the kids, but it still held up really, really well for adults.
It occurred to me that maybe Paul Ruebens, and by proxy the Pee Wee character, was really genius. Like, not just really funny, but actually a genius. Then I thought, "wouldn't it be neat to write a post about this?" Then I thought, "I think I'll write a post about this RIGHT NOW!" But then I thought, "oh crap, I've got a bunch of stuff due for work, plus grocery shopping, and the kids have soccer practice, plus I need to catch up on season 2 of Homeland, so maybe in a couple of days." Then you thought, "is this goddamn post ever going to go anywhere?" Then I thought, "woah this is weird, I can hear your thoughts. This can't be good. Also, those cargo shorts do look fabulous on you."
Ahem. So here we are, the first in perhaps an occasional series describing the genius of Pee Wee.
[Note: If, by chance, you were kicked in the head by a mule and have never seen it, go watch it. Now would be a good time. Why are you still here? GO.]
The Scene: I Remember
A bit of background: Pee Wee, of course, is on a quest to find his stolen bicycle. Upon the advice of a shady fortune teller, he heads to the Alamo, with hilarious results but no luck. Aimlessly wandering, his misadventures continue until inadvertently riding a bull at a Texas rodeo and being knocked out.
This scene, to me, is wildly successful, in that I actually snorted out loud while watching and have been thinking about it for the last two days.
The repetition of "I can't remember" builds the scene, of course. But it's more than that. At this point you've been laughing throughout the movie, and you are expecting jokes to be coming fast and furious. The whole movie is essentially a bunch of set pieces which end in a laugh.
Yet here you are, waiting, waiting, and something about the scene seems off. Like maybe — just for this one scene — they're strictly going to be move the plot forward without providing a gag. But then, BAM! your head is snapped around with the unexpected. For the cherry on top (and to let us know we've been really fucking taken) the reaction of the cowboys is just flat-out absurd.
What's more, this joke is built throughout the entire movie, not just the scene before. From the fortune teller to the road trip to the humiliation at the Alamo to his run-in with Simone's ex-boyfriend to ending up on a rodeo bull to coming to in the middle of a bunch of cowboys IN TEXAS, of all places... it's a joke that has been building, that has been shaped and kneaded and percolated for 45 minutes, and when the payoff comes, it's spectacular. It would not surprise me if Ruebens had the idea for this joke, then wrote most of the movie around it.
Welp, I've completely sucked the fun out of this one. Until next time?