I am told that Pee-Wee-Herman's Big Adventure was Tim Burton's first film. And yes, folks, he has always been a nutcase - and I mean that in the best possible way.
The basic plot of the film is that Pee-Wee has his bicycle, his most prized posession, stolen. He then sets out to find it, a mission which ends up taking him from his generic small town home to Texas and Florida and back, with all sorts of wackiness along the way.
Despite being targeted mainly at children, Pee-Wee is a movie that works on several levels and can be appreciated by anyone (I almost suffocated from laughter - after leaving the theatre). If you keep your eyes and ears open, it is full of hidden references and double-entendres. Example: A burly hick overhears his girlfriend telling Pee-Wee "Wow... No-one's ever put it to me that way before" and explodes in a fit of rage.
Another part of the reason that the movie works so well is the nature of Pee-Wee- Who exactly is he? A 30ish man in a grey suit with red bowtie who lives alone in a house full of gadgets and toys and who never works. My guess is that he represents the adulthood that children look forward to... and the childhood about which adults reminisce. He still seems to have traces of a dark side though; When Dotty asks him out to a movie, Pee-Wee replies "There are some things you don't know about me, Dotty. There are some things you shouldn't know about me. There are some things you don't want to know about me. I'm a loner, Dotty... A rebel".
The world which Pee-Wee inhabits is also another work of subtle Burton genius. It looks like the real world - but everything is just a little bit cleaner, a little bit more colourful, the fat people a little fatter, the old people a little older, and the Texans a little more Texan. Everything is slightly less dangerous, and everyone slightly more friendly.
The conclusion says it all about this particular movie: At the end, we see Pee-Wee and Dotty finally together at the drive-in, watching the movie version of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, starring a Burt Reynolds look-alike as Pee-Wee, and the man himself in a cameo role as a hotel porter. When Pee-Wee suggests they leave early, Dotty asks him why, to which Pee-Wee replies: "I don't have to see it, Dotty... I lived it"