Director Tim Burton's first feature film already displayed his distinctive visual style. The absurdist comedy has a look reminiscent of German expressionist movies of the 1920s, filtered through a pop-art sensibility of cartoons, horror serials, and Gothic fairy tales. The result is a surreal, mystical world, yet one very close to our own. Much like Burton's subsequent heroes, Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood, Pee-Wee (Paul Reubens) travels through this dreamy world as an unabashedly quirky, innocent outsider. The character of Pee-Wee Herman was the creation of comedians Reubens and Phil Hartman, and it had been a staple of Reubens' nightclub act for years before the film. Reubens selected Burton to direct the Pee-Wee feature on the basis of his Disney-produced short Frankenweenie, which the studio had deemed unacceptable for kids. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure propelled Burton to many opportunities, including the first Batman, even as it predictably typecast Reubens.
by Brendon Hanley review