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A personal and fan favorite, PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE ($20) is one of a handful of 2011 Blu-ray releases, I was most anxious to acquire. With the disc actually in my possession, I can honestly say that Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens), Tim Burton and Danny Elfman fans will be absolutely delighted with the Blu-ray. Now I come to the difficult part of the review. How does one describe PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE (or Pee-Wee Herman for that matter) to the uninitiated? The way I look at it, the character of Pee-Wee Herman is the embodiment of childhood joy that seems lost in almost all adults. Sure, its odd to see someone who is obviously an adult looking and acting like a child, but the character of Pee-Wee Herman is a refreshing innocent, who reminds one of all the simple virtues of being a kid.

PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE follows the title character as he goes on an epic quest across country to find his stolen bicycle, which also just happens to be the coolest bike in the whole wide world. Traveling first to Texas, then all the way to the Warner Bros. back lot in California; Pee-Wee has humorous encounters with escaped criminals, hobos, bikers, dinosaurs and even a phantom truck driver (which happens to be my favorite scene in the flick). In addition to being a cool little comedy that is designed to appeal to both children and adults alike, PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE is also the film that launched the career of director Tim Burton. Burton, who went on to direct BEETLEJUICE, BATMAN, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, MARS ATTACKS SLEEPY HOLLOW, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, CORPSE BRIDE, SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET and ALICE IN WONDERLAND applies his animator’s eye to PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, giving it an almost living cartoon quality.

Another first for PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE is its strange and whimsical Danny Elfman score. Elfman (who has gone on to become my favorite living film composer) has certainly crafted more mature and complex scores in the twenty-five plus years since PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE was released. However, there is something about the simplicity of the main titles and "Breakfast Machine" cues that I find completely irresistible. The cast of PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE also features Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton, Diane Salinger, Judd Omen, Monte Landis, Professor Toru Tanaka, Ed Herlihy, Alice Nunn, Carmen Filpi, Jan Hooks, Cassandra Peterson, Jason Hervey, Phil Hartman, James Brolin and Morgan Fairchild.

Warner Home Video has made PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Considering its age and modest budget, PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE features a pretty impressive 1080p presentation. Image sharpness and detail offer a marked improvement over the DVD edition of the film, but there are some instances where the clarity and fine detail are limited by original production factors. Many sequences are shot with a limited depth of field, so they don’t appear overly dimensional, but others are shot in a way the makes the image more dimensional. Colors are generally quite vivid, and sometimes verge on the realm of appearing cartoony. However, hues are reproduced with perfect stability. Flesh tones appear accurate. Blacks are deep, while the whites are crisp. Contrast is generally smooth, but shadow detail is occasionally limited by production technique and film stocks. The elements from which PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE has been mastered do show some minor imperfections. Grain is ever present, with darker sequences showing heavier grain.

PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. As I noted on my review of the DVD edition, Danny Elfman’s score has received the lion’s share of the benefits from upgrading the sound into a more modern format. Thanks to the lossless encode, Elfman’s music has a richer and more full-bodied character. Additionally, one will notice some directional sound effects in the mix, but they tend to remain largely within the forward soundstage. As for the rear channels, they provide mostly ambient sound and some great musical fill. The bass channel adds some sonic weight. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always easy to understand. French and Spanish Dolby Digital monaural tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

The interactive menu gives one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental features, many of which have been ported from the DVD release. Starting things off is a is a running Audio Commentary with director Tim Burton and co-writer/star Paul Reubens. The track proves both relatively fun and insightful for both fans of Pee-Wee Herman and the director. There is a lot of information on how this project got off the ground and the people involved with the production. Another highlight of this disc is Danny Elfman’s isolated score in 5.1 channel sound. Between musical cues, one can find Elfman talking about PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, as well as his careers with Oingo Boingo and as a film composer. Elfman’s comments certainly confirm my suspicions that Bernard Herrmann (my favorite dead film composer) influenced his work. On its own, the isolated score is a hoot, I know I had a ball cranking up the "Breakfast Machine" cue and listening to it a few times. Supplements also include four Deleted Scenes that are taken from a time-coded tape, which is in rather rough condition. The disc also features a short Storyboard Montage that includes a narration by production designer David L. Snyder. A Theatrical Trailer closes things out.

Even after twenty-five plus years PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE remains an utter delight for fans of director Tim Burton, composer Danny Elfman and star Pee-Wee Herman. Warner has beautifully upgraded the film to high definition. Recommended.


Pee-wee's Big Adventure [Blu-ray] (1985)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2011 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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