Tuesday, July 8, 2014


A Comparison of Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief
and Tim Burton's Pee Wee's Big Adventure

Basic Plot:
The Bicycle Thief: Man’s life spirals out of control after theft of his bike
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Man’s life spirals out of control after theft of his bike

Title in Italian:
The Bicycle Thief: Ladri di biciclette
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Grande esperienza uoma di piccola statura

Importance of bicycle:
The Bicycle Thief: Means of livelihood
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Life itself

Film style:
The Bicycle Thief: Neo-realistic
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Fairy tale/Fable

Protagonist biggest bike fantasy:
The Bicycle Thief: No fantasies, just wants to earn a living
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Wins the Tour de France

The Bicycle Thief: Poor, epileptic peasant named Alfredo who wears a German cap
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Rich, spoiled man/boy named Francis who wears an ascot

Signature line:
The Bicycle Thief: “Give me my bicycle back!”
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: “I know you are, but what am I?”

Forgotten female lead:
The Bicycle Thief: Antonio’s wife, ignored after the first twenty minutes of the film
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Dottie, ignored by Pee Wee the entire film

Lack of help from the police:
The Bicycle Thief: “You’ve filed a complaint. There’s nothing more I can say!”
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: “Let me be honest with you. Hundreds of bikes are stolen every month. Very few are ever recovered. We just don’t have the resources.”

Musical interlude:
The Bicycle Thief: Three-man band at a restaurant featuring ukulele, guitar and violin.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Twisted Sister

Is there a scene of the protagonist mourning over lost bike in the rain to show despondency?
The Bicycle Thief: Yes
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Yes

Loyal sidekick:
The Bicycle Thief: Antonio’s little son Bruno
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Pee Wee’s little dog Speck

Favorite scene that made me laugh but I can’t explain why it’s funny:
The Bicycle Thief: Antonio’s son Bruno slips in the rain. Antonio asks, “What happened?” Bruno points at the spot and yells, “I fell down!”
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Mario the magic shop proprietor tries to sell Pee Wee various items culminating with a giant plastic head and Pee Wee screams, “NO!”

Coincidence alert:
The Bicycle Thief: Antonio spots an old man talking to the boy who stole his bike
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Truck carrying the stolen bike goes by Pee Wee while he’s driving down the road

Most surrealistic moment:
The Bicycle Thief: None
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Pee Wee’s movie within a movie is brought to the screen with James Brolin as P. W. and Morgan Fairchild as Dottie. The bicycle has become the ‘X1’ motorcycle.

Most neo-realistic moment:
The Bicycle Thief: Antonio has not only lost his bike, but his dignity, only to comforted by the touch of his son’s hand
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: None

Heroic moment:
The Bicycle Thief: Antonio’s friend Baiocco tries to help find the bike.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Pee Wee saves some snakes from a burning pet store

Tragic lines said to the protagonist:
The Bicycle Thief: “Criminal! Scoundrel! Fine example you set for your son!”
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: “There’s no basement at the Alamo!”

Director’s use of non-actors:
The Bicycle Thief: Casting of many non-actors in pivotal roles
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Casting of non-actor Morgan Fairchild

Director’s later change of pace:
The Bicycle Thief: Vittorio De Sica later made his own fairy tale/fable in Miracle in Milan
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Tim Burton later went neo-realistic (to a degree) in Batman

Is this film in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die?
The Bicycle Thief: Often regarded as one of the top ten films of all time. Of course it’s in the book!
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: No, but it probably ought to be.


  1. I think you reach both ends of the spectrum there. I had no idea you could compare those two, but I was mistaken.

  2. I actually first saw both of these films for the first time during the same summer (1985). They've always had an odd link for me ever since.

  3. »A great experience for a small man« – what a clever italian title for PeeWee!

  4. Ha, I love these comparisons. Good work.