Pee-wee's Big Adventure, a surprise hit in 1985, made a star of Herman and also of director Tim Burton, whose junkshop aesthetic and love of lonely outsiders work at least as well here as in his later hits Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, and Ed Wood. Unlike most of Burton's later heroes Pee-wee is not a figure of pathos; rather, he's a triumphant outsider who gets to remake the world in his own image. While his search for his lost bicycle wrenches him away from his kitsch-filled cocoon, it's as much for the benefit of the America he crisscrosses as for his own. Perhaps in the 2010s another comic will emerge whose effect will be as potent in its impotence as Pee-wee's briefly was.
-- Gregg Rickman
Pee-wee's Big Adventure screens Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 28 and 29, at 7:15 and 9:15 p.m. at the Red Vic, 1727 Haight (at Clayton), S.F. Admission is $6; call 668-3994.