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Skip 'Big Holiday,' stick to classic Pee-wee

In the 1980s, watching Paul Reubens (then in his 30s) play lovable man-child Pee-wee Herman didn't seem that odd. After all, that was the era of actors well into their 20s and 30s playing teenagers on TV.

Joe Manganiello and Paul Reubens star in "Pee-wee's Big Holiday," which is now streaming on Netflix. (Netflix)
Joe Manganiello and Paul Reubens star in "Pee-wee's Big Holiday," which is now streaming on Netflix. (Netflix)

In the 1980s, watching Paul Reubens (then in his 30s) play lovable man-child Pee-wee Herman didn't seem that odd. After all, that was the era of actors well into their 20s and 30s playing teenagers on TV.

The Pee-wee TV show and movies became classics for a generation, with 1985's "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" becoming a launching point for director Tim Burton's career.

Reubens has since made some standout appearances on other shows including "Murphy Brown," "Pushing Daisies" and "The Blacklist," and just this week, he popped up as the Penguin's father on "Gotham," reprising a role he played in Burton's 1992 film "Batman Returns."

So it comes as no surprise that seeing Reubens (now well into his 60s) play Pee-wee in 2016 is just odd. "Pee-wee's Big Holiday" does capture some of the quirks and fun of the '80s originals, but it mostly comes off as creepy and out-of-date.

Yes, Pee-wee has come back into the limelight here and there since the "Playhouse" days, most notably in a 2011 Broadway show and TV special. The show and special were about as entertaining as the original TV show and movies, delivering different skits instead of an hour-and-a-half narrative.

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The world of Pee-wee Herman always seems to work best in short skits or a TV format, and the effort in "Big Holiday" to put him into a road-trip situation fails.

Joe Manganiello ("Magic Mike," "True Blood") is surprisingly good as a version of himself who befriends Pee-wee and invites him to come to New York for his birthday party. Pee-wee decides to head out on his first solo road trip, leaving his small town behind for an adventure.

The best parts of "Big Holiday" are the sequences Manganiello and Reubens share, and the biggest disappointment is there aren't enough of those scenes.

Naturally, Pee-wee hits quite a few roadblocks on his trip and is more-or-less left to his own devices or the kindness of strangers to help him get out of a seemingly never-ending series of barriers to getting to Joe's birthday party.

"Big Holiday" would've been a much more interesting story if it were tweaked to be a kind of buddy road trip movie with Pee-wee and Joe developing their friendship. Instead, we're given just one sequence at the beginning of the movie and expected to believe they're instant best friends.

"Pee-wee's Big Holiday" became available to stream on Netflix last weekend, and "Pee-wee's Big Adventure," all five seasons of "Pee-wee's Playhouse" and the "Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special" also are available on the streaming service. When it comes to Pee-wee, you might just be better off sticking to the classics.

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PEE-WEE'S BIG HOLIDAY

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Two-and-a-half stars out of five.

Time: 1:29

MPAA rating: none

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