Our writers are (lovingly) foisting pop-culture favourites on their unsuspecting nippers. Here, Cal Wilson introduces her five year-old to Tim Burton’s delirious 1985 debut.
I loved Pee-wee’s Big Adventure as a teenager, LOVED it. I think I watched it at least once every weekend (I had a lot of free nights).
The story of a boy tracking down his stolen bike, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was Tim Burton’s debut full-length feature film, back when he still had manageable hair, and hadn’t heard of Johnny Depp. It’s kitschy, crazed and hilarious, with a wonderfully circus-y score from Danny Elfman (the dude who wrote the Simpsons theme, and every other good soundtrack ever).
I hadn’t seen it for a few years, until I played it for my five year-old, Digby, this week. It was only when we watched it together that I realised how much it’s informed my adult life – from the way I dance, to the large number of plastic animals I keep in my garden. It’s the reason I sometimes greet my food, “Good Morning, Mr Breakfast.” I found myself blurting lines in unison with the characters, which Digby found most perplexing.
Mind you, I wasn’t the only one talking: watching a movie with my son is almost identical to watching a movie with my elderly mother. There are endless questions: Who’s that girl? What did the man do to his bike? Why is that monkey helping?
The opening five minutes of the film are particularly magical, with Pee-wee (played by Paul Reubens)’s breakfast being prepared by a Heath Robinson-esque contraption that includes a dinosaur squeezing oranges and a life size mannequin of Abraham Lincoln flipping pancakes. Dig’s expression was a sort of mystified delight, he couldn’t work out why the madness was happening, but he loved it. LOVED IT.
One of his favourite parts was Pee-wee covering his bacon and eggs with Mr T cereal and saying, “I pity the poor fool, who don’t eat my cereal,” which he has been happily misquoting as, “I pity the pork food.” I’ve thought of correcting him, but I do feel guilty about eating bacon, so it seems appropriate.
Recently off his training wheels, and an avid rider, Digby really felt Pee-wee’s trauma when his bike got stolen, but was also quite concerned that Pee-wee never wore a helmet. I had to keep saying, “It was the 80’s, we didn’t know about safety.” At one point Pee-wee falls off his bike in front of some cool kids and says, “I meant to do that.” This afternoon while riding his bike, Dig crashed on a ramp. He bounced straight up, and using Pee-wee’s exact intonation, said, “I meant to do that.” I was so proud.
I was thrilled he enjoyed the film so much. Some of the plot flew over his head, but there was enough colour, movement, and people dressed as Godzilla to keep him entranced.
We watched the breakfast sequence again with his best mate and Digby excitedly shouted all the funny bits just before we got to them. He takes after his mum.
Cal Wilson is a Kiwi who calls Australia home. Comedian, Writer, amateur Cat Lady.