Big Top Pee-wee (1988) Poster

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Unique and bizarre experience
rooprect22 October 2013
This is a very difficult movie to appreciate. Or it may be a very simple movie to appreciate, depending on who you are.

Have a look at the following movies, and if you see at least 1 that you really like from EACH category, then you'll probably enjoy "Big Top Pee-Wee".

CATEGORY A ----------------------------

Pee-wee's Big Adventure

Edward Scissorhands

The Fall


CATEGORY B ----------------------------

Free Willy


Anything by Walt Disney

The Muppet Movie

Category A movies are fairy tales for adults. Category B movies are straightforward kid's movies. In order to appreciate "Big Top Pee-wee" you have to be ready for either. You have to expect some jokes & gags that only adults will recognize (mildly sexual, cynical or taboo: such as the cranky old lady's hilarious reference to bulimia), but overall the film takes the format of a kid's movie, with lots of cute animals, predictable slapstick and a cheerful approach, right down to the cheezy sing-song finale.

I think it's the latter--the category B "kid" content--that threw off a lot of fans. The original "Pee-wee" was an adult film packaged in a kid's presentation. But this is the opposite: a kid's film in adult clothing.

As such, the gags aren't as subtle & witty as adult comedies usually are. Like a Saturday morning kids show, "Big Top Pee-wee" comes on strong with exaggerated and hyper-enthusiastic dialogue, overt sight gags & corny action. This may turn off a lot of adults expecting the more biting, tongue-in-cheek comedy of the original Pee-wee.

All the same, there are some classic comedic moments that adults & kids alike will enjoy. The whole "I just wanted a cheese sandwich!" scene had me rolling. I also liked the 1st picnic with Winnie which could easily have been a deleted scene in the original Pee-wee. The creepy townsfolk in general, contrasted against Pee-wee's oblivious optimism, provided great entertainment. But be forewarned, these acidic gags are sparsely presented. Most of the film is straightforward silliness, suitable for kids & young minds.

Being a die-hard fan of the original film, and being a fan of adult fairy tales in general, I have a love-hate relationship with this movie and that's why I can't rate it. But I've seen it 4 times if that's any indication of how compelling it is. My gut says I shouldn't recommend it to everyone, but all the same, there will be a few of you out there who will really enjoy this flick. If you're a kid at heart, don't hesitate.
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Underrated sequel deserves a second chance from fans
funkyfry4 October 2002
Sequel falls short largely because of stasis -- even though its's a circus theme, the writers/producers kept ALL the action on Pee Wee's farm, unlike the original which was a road trip film. Like the original, many bizarre touches are present and Reuben's portrayal is amusing. Here he's a bit more seedy, including a very funny hair fetish. The romance is unbelievable, though, because unlike the original, here Pee Wee is coupled with two supermodel class ladies. Fine direction, decent acting, lots of freaks. Kristofferson is funny as the perpetual man who knows where everybody should go (he plays that one a lot) in this case with a midget wife who's very very small. Pleasing otherworldly atmosphere enhanced by the circus theme -- if only the producers had sprung for a TRAVELLING circus! Still, this one didn't deserve the acid reviews and fan neglect it received on initial release, and should be given a fair look by fans of Reubens' neo-vaudeville comedy.
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Painful PeeWee
wsureck6 April 2002
I've tried watching this movie three times, and can never get all the way through it. Big Top Pee Wee is as bad as Pee Wee's Big Adventure was good. Other than some imaginative effects, Pee Wee looks like he fell out of the sky and landed in this movie. I think Bill Murray would have been better cast in a movie with this plotline, especially in the scenes where Pee Wee is acting like a dog in heat. Murray would make a convicing "hayseed" and slob on a farm. Reubens seems to strain in his attempt to make something of the unfunny material he's given...the characters around him are generally unfunny as well. How anyone came up with this farm, then circus plotline is beyond me. The film is generally devoid of laughs. An overall waste of the Pee Wee Herman character and one of the worst "comedies" I've ever seen.
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Big Flop Pee-Wee
Jim-50011 April 2003
I thought Pee-Wee's first movie, Big Adventure, was brilliant. But this one had none of its magic and spunk. Pee-Wee didn't even seem to be himself. The only remotely funny part was when he dredged up the "I know you are but what am I" routine. But even when he did that, he didn't seem that interested. The only thing I remember about this flick was him lying under a tree with his girlfriend. Yawn.

I think Paul Reubens is a genius. But not in this movie.
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What a waste!!
chaplins_charlie15 July 2003
This sequel has nothing to do with Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

Therefore, I wouldn't actually even say it's a sequel. First of all Pee-wee's back but not with his super cool bike or his super cool house with all the gadgets. Not even with the same people. Where were Dottie, Francis, Mario, Speck(his dog), the biker gang, or even Simone?? Noone but Pee-wee himself was in the second movie. That was a major let down. Pee-wee goes from living in California to living in a small farm in the middle of the suburbs. His pet is a talking pig and the rest of the movie is just blah. If they knew Pee-wee was for kids, I don't see why they had to put so much kissing in this movie. Even the woman Pee-wee falls in love with is boring and has the world's most annoying accent. I completely disliked it and I even ended up not liking Pee-wee anymore. Stick to the first one and that's it!! Unless you'd rather be let down, then watch the second one!! What a waste of time, film, money, etc.
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Big Top Pee Wee? It's More Like Big Flop Pee Wee!
SpikeBuff10 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I love Pee Wee's Big Adventure, the one in which Pee Wee Herman travels to Texas and California in search of his stolen bike and I bought the DVD for that adorable and funny movie! I saw this sequel and it's just horrible and I think the only scene that was funny was the scene with Pee Wee feeding the worm to the baby bird even though it was so obvious it was candy, one of those gummy worms. Anyway this movie is not funny and is a major snore fest and I can see why the professional movie critics who I don't always agree with hated this movie. I very strongly agree with them on this one and I have read that even Paul Ruebens (Pee Wee Herman) has admitted he wasn't to pleased with this movie!
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Big Top misfire
Mr-Fusion11 May 2015
Ah, the ignorance of being a kid. "Big Top Pee-Wee" had some decent play value back when I was too small to know better. But watching this through adult eyes was a huge letdown. The story's paper thin, the charm is nonexistent and . . . well it's all off. Most of the jokes are dead in the water, and there are long stretches where you hope for something funny, but the laughs just don't come. I kept asking myself if I'm just missing some brilliantly subversive art - but no, I'm pretty sure this is just driftwood. Kristofferson's seemingly wandered into the wrong production, and Reubens is just doing through the motions. Vance the Pig was funny, and the hot dog tree was cute.

But that's about it.

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Take Another Look
TheHorrorMan22 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Here's the thing, just about every review I've read on here compares this film to Big Adventure. Stop! This is not a sequel to Pee-Wee's first film. It is simply a new movie containing the same character. As you will see, his house is different, his pets are different, and even Pee-Wee himself is different. To be honest, I think it is harder not to laugh at least once or twice in this movie than to find some funny. A lot of it is funny and it should be taken for what it is. Everyone is free to their own opinion, all I ask is that those who didn't like it the first time around should take another look. This time, don't expect a sequel. It's entertaining and that's all we can ask of it.

On a side note, there is a very different tone to this film as well. It is upbeat, yet dark. One bizarre scene that stands out is when Pee-Wee kisses Gina. Wow! That's worth a look alone for those who like to see odd things.
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Not as zany as Big Adventure, but Big Top has its charms
DAVID SIM13 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Pee-wee's Big Adventure was an unparallelled cinematic delight. It brought to attention the previously unknown Tim Burton, who provided the perfect starring vehicle for oddball comedian Pee-wee Herman (in real life Paul Reubens).

The mingling of Burton's kitsch aesthetic with Reuben's bizarre persona turned out to be a perfect match. Big Adventure had a very simple story to go from. Pee-wee wanted to be reunited with his beloved bike. And that basic premise was all it needed. Burton infused the film with a beautiful colour scheme, oddball delights and kooky curiosities, all played to the hilt by the irrepressible Pee-wee.

Pee-wee's Big Adventure turned out to be a surprise box-office smash hit, cementing Burton's place among Hollywood's brightest and eccentric filmmakers.

It took three years for a further instalment to arrive on the big screen. In the interim, Pee-wee got his own TV show, Pee-wee's Playhouse, and dominated the ratings as the host of one of America's most popular children's shows. Reubens took time out from the show in 1988 to make one more film, Big Top Pee-wee.

Big Top came about a year before Reuben's career was damaged after he was caught masturbating in an X-rated movie theatre. The character was effectively retired after that, and although there is talk of a new Pee-wee Herman movie in the making, I'm still not entirely sure it will ever happen.

In the meantime, we do have two of his adventures to fall back on. But after seeing Big Top, you wonder if you really want to see another one. Because the Pee-wee Herman you see here is not quite the one you remember.

It seems that Pee-wee has done a bit of growing up. Where in the first he was content to potter about his pastel coloured mansion playing with Rube Goldberg breakfast making contraptions and copiously caring for his customized bike, here Pee-wee has settled into an almost normal life.

Don't forget...I said almost! Pee-wee's now a farmer. He cultivates hot dog trees, tends to cows that produce chocolate milk, and he even has a talking pig, Vance as a business partner!

He even has a personal life now. He's engaged to prim schoolmistress Winnie (Penelope Ann Miller), and lives in a normal town. Unfortunately, he's forced to share it with some not very nice townsfolk.

But one windy day, fate blows a circus right into Pee-wee's backyard, all filled with curious kooks. First there's ringmaster Mace Montana (Kris Kristofferson, excellent). His wife, Midge, 2 inches tall, with a voice much bigger than she is. And best of all, Gina (Valeria Golino), the beautiful acrobat and star attraction, the woman Pee-wee falls for.

I think the reason Big Top Pee-wee isn't as successful is because it doesn't have a director who's perfectly attuned to the material. The joy of the first film was Tim Burton provided an eccentric outsider's take on life. But this film's director, Randal Kleiser doesn't have that quality. He doesn't occupy Pee-wee's headspace the way Burton was able to.

And the more Pee-wee tries to fit in to our world, the more apart from it he seems. He has no place in our world. He lives in one of his own rules and devisings.

Also with foreknowledge of what was to come for Reubens, you do get a bit uncomfortable watching him 'nail' Winnie, engage in a bit of two-timing, and the film even implies that he loses his virginity to Gina. With him still hosting a children's show at the time of the film's release, that makes it seem all the more unpalatable.

There are occasions where Big Top shows some of the similar quirks that made the first film so endearing. Like Pee-wee's farm animals sleeping in beds. Pee-wee plucking a worm from an apple to feed birds. And all the animals gathered around a table for breakfast. Danny Elfman also provides another whimsical film score to enjoy.

But Big Top never really ignites. It never bursts out with the joy and exuberance that Burton brought to the first one. There is a good cast, but they somehow look a little awkward trying their best to connect with someone as alien as Pee-wee.

Kris Kristofferson probably comes off best by playing the sincerity perfectly straight. But the one real shining light is the underrated Valeria Golino. She brings a passionate charge to the role of Gina. She brings Pee-wee down to earth, but is wise enough not to leave him there for too long. Because she knows he's always at his best when filled with childlike whimsy. She reminds us of the Pee-wee we once knew.

Big Top Pee-wee never inhabits the bizarre, unreal world that made the first film such a treat. I think Pee-wee has become too domesticated. If there is to be another Pee-wee adventure, he can't be kept on a leash. He must be allowed to flourish. That way we can enjoy the company of the Pee-wee we remember so well.
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This movie is different from the first movie and trust me that is not a good thing.
Aaron137521 March 2007
We somehow went from a rousing cross country adventure that was the first Pee Wee movie with lots of colorful characters and some really strange situations, but overall funny to a one town movie that is strange and not in a good way. We don't get the scenery and we do not get a very good or funny movie this time. Maybe it is because Phil Hartman did not help with the script or maybe because Tim Burton did not direct, but this movie is absolutely nothing like the first film and as I said before that is not a good thing. This time we have Pee Wee on a rather boring farm, where he has a talking pig and the towns folk are a bunch of bores. Then the circus gets blown into town and that shakes things up. That is about it, besides the odd love triangle involving Pee Wee...who for some reason goes from a loner and a rebel to kind of a perv. There are a couple of chuckles to be found near the beginning of the movie, but once the circus hits it is rather tedious to watch. Like I said you go from all the wacky stuff in big adventure to one setting and one setting only. You have a few stars in this one, but they don't add to the movie, only to the misery. The ending is so stupid I could not watch it again. All in all I would say skip this movie unless you are a die hard Pee Wee fan which I am not. He was amusing in the bizarre adventure world, but he comes across as rather embarrassing and even creepy in the Big Top.
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