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The Perfect Bike To Work Week Screening: Pee Wee's Big Adventure In The Park

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 6, 2012 7:40PM

2012_06_06_PeeWee.jpg Drive to work? In Chicago? That's so funny, we forgot to laugh. Next week is Bike to Work week, and to help celebrate the love of the pedal-powered lifestyle, Pee Wee's Big Adventure will be shown at Millenium Park. If we're trying to awaken the childlike component of our love of biking, it is an inspired choice.

Has anyone loved a bike more than Pee Wee? Unlikely. But how did the film come to be about a bike at all? Paul Rubens' original Pee Wee comedy routine was based on a character created during an improvisation with the Groundlings. While there was no bike involved, something about the dainty man-child's enthusiasm and mischievous naivete struck a chord with audiences, and the the success of an HBO special got Rubens a movie deal with Warner Bros. While Rubens was working on a script with Michael Varhol and frequent collaborator Phil Hartman, the studio gave him a beautiful 1940's Schwinn to ride around the lot. Suddenly, Rubens had his scenario: an epic love of a bike.

There are a lot of odd things about Pee Wee, but his unwavering devotion to his ride is the one thing most anybody who depends on their bicycle can identify with completely. We love our bikes, and Pee Wee's Big Adventure is the perfect film to celebrate the joyous liberation we associate with them. Like Pee Wee himself, bicycles partake of both the adult world (as functional conveyances to employment) and the child-like (as fun and liberating incarnations of children playthings).

Pee Wee's Big Adventure got mixed reviews initially but was a hit with audiences and became a cult classic. Rubens' subsequent career has had some spectacularly lurid legal pockmarks, but the character he created, and specifically its realization in this film, is unique and beloved. It's not even a surprise that Murnau of the Man-Child Judd Apatow is supposedly helming a new Pee Wee movie.

Pee Wee's Big Adventure screens Tuesday, June 12 at dusk at the Millennium Park great lawn.