Big Top Pee-wee (1988)

6.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 7/10

Pee-wee is still funny

Weak story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Big Top Pee-wee

Studio:  Paramount Pictures

Genre(s):  Comedy/Family

Release Date(s):  July 22, 1988

MPAA Rating:  PG


Damn, Pee-wee gets all the girls!

Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) has had enough of the life of a celebrity and moved to a small town where he can work on his genetic plant experiments with his pig friend Vance.  Things seem to be going great for Pee-wee.  He’s on the verge of a huge breakthrough involving a hotdog plant, and he’s engaged to a girl named Winnie Johnson (Penelope Ann Miller).  When a storm hits, Pee-wee finds the Cabrini Circus has crashed into his farm and not everyone in town is excited about it.  With Mace Montana (Kris Kristofferson) try to reinvent his circus’s act, and Pee-wee falling in love with trapeze artist Gina Piccolapupula (Valeria Golino), Pee-wee finds his life is changing again.

Directed by Randal Kleiser, Big Top Pee-wee is the follow-up to Pee-wee’s Big Adventure of 1985.  The movie was not received as well and fared poorly in the box office.


An experiment in horror!

I loved Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.  It was fun and funny on multiple levels.  I could watch it as a kid and like it, and I still can watch it as an adult.  For some reason, Big Top Pee-wee had no interest from me, and I never saw it until now.  Despite the rather negative reviews, I did find the movie fun but different than its predecessor.

The movie is meant to be a sequel to Pee-wee’s Big Adventure in a way.  It is meant to be that Pee-wee became famous because of the movie and has retreated to country life as a result.  However, the tone and feel of the movie is entirely different.  The movie is much more surreal and somewhat more adult themed (Pee-wee has two leading ladies).


I run this circus!

Paul Reubens still makes me laugh as Pee-wee without having to do much.  However, he can’t save the weaker story and despite a decent supporting cast.  Kris Kristofferson plays the ringmaster who believes in Pee-wee and Susan Tyrrell plays his wife Midge Montana.  The movie is also notable for being the first role for Benicio del Toro who plays Duke the Dog-Faced Boy.

The visuals of the movie (like the story) are also very surreal.  You have the somewhat idealized country world, but you have Pee-wee serving dinner to animals and growing a hotdog tree (that becomes a weenie tree that de-ages people (in a very deus ex machina moment for wrapping up the story).

Big Top Pee-wee isn’t the greatest but Paul Reubens still gives his all.  I wish that the story had been stronger and the movie had done better so we could see more Pee-wee features, but unfortunately this and his arrest in 1991 put a halt to Pee-wee movies though there is plans for a resurgence for the character.

Related Links:

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (1988)

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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