Pee-wee Herman is back with a new movie

Paul Reubens teams up with Joe Manganiello for Pee-wee's Big Holiday on Netflix.

Joe Manganiello,left, as himself and Paul Reubens as Pee-wee Herman in Pee-wee’s Big Holiday. Reubens has played the bubbly character for nearly 40 years. Glen Wilson / Netflix
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Meka Leka Hi Meka Hiney Ho! Jambi the blue genie has outdone himself this time – granting us a wish we’ve held dear to our hearts for decades – the chance to see a new Pee-wee Herman movie.

Yes, bow tie is the new black for Paul Reubens as he celebrates nearly 40 years in the bubbly man-child's white loafers with a wild new adventure, Pee-wee's Big Holiday, a Netflix original film that debuts on Friday.

Now 63 and admittedly thrilled to step back into his most iconic role, with a little facial buffing from his digital-retouching friends, Reubens's new jaunt begins with a fateful meeting with a mysterious stranger – a brawny motorcycling bro played by his true-life friend Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike, True Blood) – who inspires Pee-wee, now a short-­order cook in a greasy spoon, to toss off his apron and take his first holiday in an epic story of friendship and destiny.

The physical contrast between the skinny 5-foot-10-inch nerd Reubens and the muscled 6-foot-5-inch manly Manganiello makes for true comic contrast onscreen, but Reubens tells USA Today that the two are genuine friends and kindred spirits.

“You want to not like [Manganiello] in a certain way. He’s like pretty close to being perfect,” says Reubens. “But he and his wife [Sofia Vergara] together are the dorkiest, nerdiest people. It’s just hilarious. People don’t get to see that side of him.”

Meanwhile, as Pee-wee’s road trip begins, three female bank robbers commandeer his car and make him the “wheelman” in their getaway. Soon Pee-wee finds himself in near-surreal situations, from tacky snake farms to living with the Amish.

Reubens and his lifelong fan Judd Apatow (Anchorman, Bridesmaids) spent the past five years as producers to bring the new film to fruition, while Reubens and comedian Paul Rust (Love, Arrested Development) wrote the script for director John Lee (Broad City, Inside Amy Schumer), who makes his ­feature-film directorial debut here.

Playing the impish grey-suited prankster, a stage character he created in 1978 as a member of the famed Los Angeles improvisational group The Groundlings, Reubens first burst onto the international scene in 1985 with Pee-wee's Big Adventure, his frantic comic journey to retrieve his stolen red bicycle, a box-office hit that also marked the directorial debut of Tim Burton.

Its sequel, Big-Top Pee-wee (1988), a trove of circus lore set on a fantastical farm of talking animals and hot-dog trees, soon led to Pee-Wee's Playhouse (1986-1990), his phenomenal cult television show for small and big kids alike that won 15 Emmys thanks to its anthropomorphised house and furnishings, awesome characters, inspired absurdity, post-modernist notions and sheer non-stop fun.

Reubens retreated from the public eye after his widely covered, career-shattering arrest for indecent exposure in an adult theatre in Sarasota, Florida, in July 1991. Celebrity friends such as Cyndi Lauper and Annette Funicello decried the bust – saying the facts were being blown out of all proportion in the media – but it was too late. CBS pulled Playhouse reruns and Toys R Us yanked Pee-wee merchandise off its shelves.

In the end, although he denied the charge, Reubens did plead “no contest” in court – which kept the charge off his record – and then refused to appear on talk shows or do interviews for years. But he did make an exception, to bravely appear as Pee-wee on the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, where he asked the crowd – “Heard any good jokes lately?” – to a standing ovation.

As he plotted his character's comeback in 2010, Reubens starred in, produced and co-wrote The Pee-wee Herman Show which opened on Broadway after a critically acclaimed run in Los Angeles. The New York Times called the show "Yummier than chocolate", while the New York Post declared "The audience screams for joy!" This helped to generate movie interest and the subsequent partnership with Apatow. While Universal and Sony studios passed on a movie, Netflix came around.

''Part of the reason why I wanted to come back [with a new movie] is that I didn't have a real good ending to my career," Reubens ­recently told the Times.

Even zombie-killer Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead recently told The Hollywood Reporter that he's a rabid Pee-wee fan. Reedus is joining Reubens in Texas this month for an episode of his new AMC docuseries on motorcycle culture, Ride with Norman Reedus.

“I am flying into Austin and from there we ride to San Antonio,” says Reedus, “where hopefully Paul will be waiting for me at the Alamo with a Pee-wee Herman bike so we can ride around.”

Pee-wee's Big Holiday will be available on Netflix starting on Friday, March 18