By Jane Kellogg Murray
Pee-Wee’s next big adventure brought him to Austin’s Paramount Theatre for the world premiere of “Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday.” It has been nearly 30 years since Paul Reubens donned his grey suit and red bowtie for the big screen, but audiences haven’t forgotten his beloved character: A crowd engulfed Congress Avenue Thursday night — chanting “Pee-Wee” and donning bowties — all for a chance to see the actor in the flesh. On Friday, the movie will debut on Netflix in addition to a limited number of theaters nationwide.
In “Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday,” the funnyman, 63, looks as good as he did in his ’80s heyday, thanks in part to a bit of Hollywood magic. In the film, Reubens’ character finds an unlikely friend in hunky bad-boy Joe Manganiello (“True Blood,” “Magic Mike”), who encourages him to take his first holiday and meet him in the Big Apple. Along the way, he’s taken hostage by a trio of bank robbers (Jessica Pohly, Stephanie Beatriz, and Alia Shawkat). A host of Pee-Wee-esque shenanigans ensue.
Shawkat, who also premiered “Search Party” at this year’s festival, admitted she was nursing a slight hangover on the red carpet — the “Arrested Development” star has shown up at events all over town this week. Manganiello’s wife, “Modern Family”’s Sofia Vergara, was spotted at the premiere (donning a skin-tight red dress, what else?) but skipped the red carpet to avoid stealing the limelight.
Super producer Judd Apatow, who premiered “Trainwreck” to rave reviews during last year’s SXSW film festival, signed on to the project after catching one of Reubens’ Los Angeles performances in 2010. He brought comedian Paul Rust onboard to co-write the script with Reubens.
Apatow says the film should appeal to the show’s original fans in addition to a new generation of younger viewers. “I’ve been a huge fan of Pee Wee Herman forever,” Apatow said on the red carpet. “It’s like what we’ve been waiting for for a long time.”
“To have Judd Apatow say ‘I want to make your movie’ is such an exciting thing to happen,” Reubens said. “He added the exact right blend of being there all the time and pulling back and letting us do our thing.”