Big Top Pee-wee (1988) Review {by R.T Ewell}

 (The following review was contributed by R.T Ewell. R.T is a writer, his work can be found here)


“Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” was one of my favorite movies as a kid. Well, let me clarify that statement, the first thirty or so minutes of “Big Adventure” was my favorite as a kid. To this day I can still watch that opening over and over. If I could make breakfast and start my mornings the way Pee Wee did, I would probably be happier throughout the day.

With having that memory for “Big Adventure”, I sort of have the opposite feelings toward Big Top Pee Wee. I only remember seeing the sequel once as a kid. That apparently was enough, at the time, for me to declare that I didn’t like it. I like to give movies another chance though, especially ones I have only seen once, or if it’s been a while.

A few things I noticed… Tim Burton did not direct this one, which I probably wouldn’t have noticed as it really has the same vibe as the original. This is mainly due to the fact that Danny Elfman is doing the composing once again. Elfman is such an amazing composer, so much so that he can instantly make a movie memorable. Nobody from the first movie returns for the second one as far as I can remember and the overall feeling of the picture is certainly weirder than “Adventure”. In that one, Pee Wee was a likable character but still had that edge of being a jerk, just a lovable jerk. Well, not in this one. He is certainly not as lovable, so the jerk part really stands out. Something else that is drastically different is the way the town reacts to Pee Wee. In “Adventure”, everybody seemed to love him but in this one it’s different, the town is just plain ole mean to poor Pee Wee to the point that you feel bad for him.

The storyline is quite simple. A big storm comes through town and when Pee Wee comes out of his cellar, a circus has landed on the Herman farm. As you can imagine this presents a variety of characters. There are your typical circus types like a bearded lady, a dog boy, and the world’s smallest woman. Sounds entertaining enough but the execution isn’t done exactly right.

The biggest problem I have is with the character of Pee Wee himself. At the beginning of the movie we find that Pee Wee is engaged to Winnie, we see some fun scenes with the two of them but it never feels right. When the circus comes to town, Pee Wee falls for another girl named Gina and actually cheats on his fiancée, and they are caught in the act by Winnie, who Gina didn’t even know about. This is a kid’s movie, really. Why have Pee Wee engaged in the first place? It was just a bad decision to include that into the storyline in my view.

In this one, Pee Wee is also a farmer which is kind of fun. He has a pet pig that actually talks but luckily it fits into the wacky world of Pee Wee Herman. I think if the whole Pee Wee cheating storyline wasn’t in there that this movie would have been more re-watchable.

Most people have a bad memory of this one but I say it’s worth a watch if you’ve never seen it or if it’s been a while. I did enjoy it except for the part where Pee Wee is a lying, cheating, dirtbag. It does have some humorous moments but none quite as memorable as the first one. Elfman’s music definitely helps make it feel like a Pee Wee movie, if that wasn’t there, this movie would feel very alien.

There have been many talks about a new movie with Paul Reubens, of course, returning to portray the lovable Pee Wee. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that, it could be amazing, or it could be more of a letdown like “Big Top Pee Wee” was. I hope that they can get Burton, Elfman, and Reubens together again so that maybe the magic can be rekindled.



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