— by Jeff Schultz
Painfully unfunny and ultimately uncomfortable, with just a few exceptions. Yes, I laughed helplessly during a long gag with a deflating balloon. Yes, I did the same during that old contract-signing bit (“Sign here. And here. And here. And…. etc.”) Yes, Pee-Wee’s early scenes with Joe Manganiello are fun. But their friendship, which fuels Pee-Wee’s brave decision to leave his small town and see the world, devolves into a kind of icky, un-spelled-out homoerotic buddy pairing that doesn’t work on any level. Road movies are only as good as their individual segments and the people cast in them, and neither a trio of sexpot bank robbers, nor a farmer and his nine daughters, nor a community of Amish, nor anyone else is funny or captivating enough. By the time of the movie’s biggest misfire — a musical number that both pays homage to and pokes fun at breathless salutes to New York City — you’ll be grabbing the remote to see how much is left to go. Whatever we loved about Pee-Wee Herman in the 80’s seems now either un-recapturable or stale. I admit I didn’t do my “homework” and watch the Tim Burton original. But for whatever reason, this is not an especially welcome return.