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PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE ($25) is certainly one of the most highly anticipated DVD releases of this year. Since the early days of the format, there was always some sort of on-line chat concerning a DVD release of PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, especially after Warner Home Video’s much delayed DVD edition was announced. Now that I the DVD is actually in my possession, I can honestly say that Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens), Tim Burton and Danny Elfman fans will be absolutely delighted with disc, and that the DVD was definitely worth the wait.

Now I come to the difficult part of the review. How does one describe PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE (or Pee-Wee Herman for that matter) to the uninitiated? The way I look at it, the character of Pee-Wee Herman is the embodiment of childhood joy that seems lost in almost all adults. Sure, its odd to see someone who is obviously an adult looking and acting like a child, but the character of Pee-Wee Herman is a refreshing innocent, who reminds one of all the simple virtues of being a kid. PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE follows Pee-Wee as he goes on an epic quest across country to find his stolen bicycle, which also just happens to be the coolest bike in the whole wide world. Traveling first to Texas, then all the way to the Warner Bros. back lot in California; Pee-Wee has humorous encounters with escaped criminals, hobos, bikers, dinosaurs and even a phantom truck driver (which happens to be my favorite scene in the flick). 

In addition to being a cool little comedy that is designed to appeal to both children and adults alike, PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE is also the film that began the career of director Tim Burton. Burton, who went on to direct BEETLEJUICE, BATMAN, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, MARS ATTACKS and SLEEPY HOLLOW applies his animator’s eye to PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, giving it an almost living cartoon quality. Another first for PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE is its strange and whimsical Danny Elfman score. Elfman (who has gone on to become my favorite living film composer) has certainly crafted more mature and complex scores in the fifteen years since PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE was released. However, there is something about the simplicity of the main titles and "Breakfast Machine" cues that I find completely irresistible. The cast of PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE also features Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton, Diane Salinger, Judd Omen, Monte Landis, Professor Toru Tanaka, Ed Herlihy, Alice Nunn, Carmen Filpi, Jan Hooks, Cassandra Peterson, Jason Hervey, Phil Hartman, James Brolin and Morgan Fairchild.

Warner Home Video has done an absolutely wonderful job with their DVD edition of PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE. I don’t think the film has ever looked as good as it does on this anamorphic enhanced DVD (nothing in the past even came close). PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE is presented in its proper 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, which correctly conceals all the bits of film magic that were revealed by full frame video incarnations of the film. The transfer seems to have been made from a pristine film element, whose only flaws are a handful of blemishes and a tiny bit of noticeable grain. Just about every frame of the movie appears crisp and nicely detailed. Colors are incredibly vibrant, especially the reds and oranges, which are reproduced without any sings of chroma noise or smearing. Flesh tones appear accurate, including Pee-Wee’s, who are just a tad too healthy to be real. Blacks are accurately reproduced and the picture has very even contrast. However, the slightly diminished level of shadow will remind one that this movie was released back in 1985. There are no appreciable digital compression artifacts on this smartly authored dual layered DVD. 

The soundtrack for PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE has been re-mastered in a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix. Danny Elfman’s score gets most of the benefits from the re-mix; sounding cleaner and more musical than it has in the past. There are some directional sound effects in the mix, but they tend to remain within the forward soundstage. As for the rear channels, they provide mostly ambient sound and musical fill. Dialogue is focused in the center channels and is always completely intelligible. The bass channel never really asserts itself, but it keeps the sound from becoming overly bright or strident. A French monaural soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles. 

The interactive menus have an amusing interface that utilizes a bit of animation and sound. Through the menus one can access the standard set up and scene selection features, as well as the DVD’s nice array of supplements. Co-writer/star Paul Reubens and director Tim Burton provide a running audio commentary that is both fun and insightful for both fans of Pee-Wee Herman and the director. There is a lot of information on how this project got off the ground and the people involved with the production. Another highlight of this DVD is Danny Elfman’s isolated score in 5.1 channel sound. Between musical cues, one can find Elfman talking about PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, as well as his careers with Oingo Boingo and as a film composer. Elfman’s comments certainly confirm my suspicions that Bernard Herrmann (my favorite dead film composer) influenced his work. On its own, the isolated score is a hoot, I know I had a ball cranking up the "Breakfast Machine" cue and listening to it a few times. Supplements also include four of deleted scenes that are taken from a time-coded tape, which is in rather rough condition. The scenes are enjoyable on their own and make a worthy addition to the DVD. The disc also features a short storyboard montage that includes a narration by production designer David L. Snyder. Filling out the supplements is cast and crew biographies/filmographies, production notes and a theatrical trailer.

As I stated above, Warner has done a wonderful job with their DVD edition of PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE. This DVD delivers a great looking and sounding presentation, as well as all the features that fans could want. Recommended.


Pee-Wee's Big Adventure



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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