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Paramount Studios presents
Big Top Pee-Wee (1988)

Gina: Thank you, you're so sweet.
Pee-Wee: I know you are, but what am I?

- Valeria Golino, Paul Reubens

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: July 05, 2004

Stars: Paul Reubens, Kris Kristoffersen, Penelope Ann Miller, Susan Tyrrell, Valeria Golino
Other Stars: Terrence Mann, Wayne White, Albert Henderson, Kenneth Tobey, Benicio Del Toro
Director: Randal Kleiser

MPAA Rating: PG for (creepy sexuality, clowns)
Run Time: 01h:25m:59s
Release Date: July 06, 2004
UPC: 097363207641
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- CAA- D-

DVD Review

If, after the success of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, there were hopes of turning Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) into a profitable movie franchise, those hopes were torpedoed by the notorious disaster of its followup, Big Top Pee-Wee. Of course, Reubens' own well-publicized legal difficulties didn't help matters any, but this movie pretty much kiboshed the adventures of the weird man/child Pee-Wee.

Pee-Wee lives on a farm, where, with the help of his talking pig friend Vance (voiced by Wayne White), he conducts botanical experiments to produce gigantic fruits and vegetables. His fiancée, Winnie (Penelope Ann Miller) is a rather obtuse schoolteacher. But everything changes when a big storm blows the circus, run by Mace Montana (Kris Kristoffersen), into his farm. Pee-Wee falls hard for gorgeous trapeze artist Gina Piccolapupula (Valeria Golino), setting up a love/hate triangle. Pee-Wee tries to join the circus himself in an effort to impress Gina, with predictable results.

Pee-Wee is somewhat more disturbing than usual here, mostly because he displays a sexual interest that is missing from the earlier film and Pee-Wee's television series. It's a clumsy, adolescent sexuality, but it's still disconcerting based on the relative innocence of Pee-Wee's world, replete with talking pigs. For example, his off-kilter attractions are expressed in a blatantly fetishistic admiration of Golino's hair. Golino (best remembered from Hot Shots) as usual oozes sensuality, making her an attractive lead, and it's easy to see why she'd cause one to forget the frumpy Winnie (though Pee-Wee is presented as being unnecessarily cruel in doing so). Kris Kristoffersen seems to recognize that he's stuck in a turkey, looking most of the time as if he just wants to escape this picture and kill his agent. The supporting cast of the members of the town are pretty entertaining as they uniformly despise Pee-Wee, giving some of the feel of the earlier film in its contrasts of the weird world of Pee-Wee and the dismal state of reality.

But more than anything, the loss of Tim Burton is deeply felt here; his dark comic instinct sadly lacking. As a result, there's a feeling of going through the paces. The film only becomes genuinely funny in the montage of Pee-Wee's desperate attempts to become a circus performer. The ending, however, is very weak and doesn't tie things up in a very satisfying manner. It's just not very much fun.

Circus movies are seldom entertaining, and this is no exception to that rule. For Pee-Wee diehards only.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture is quite attractive, with vivid colors and plenty of fine detail. Many of the sequences (especially in Pee-Wee's barn) are beautifully lit and the transfer does them lovely justice. Golino in particular looks luminous. The bit rate is fairly high, allowing Pee-Wee's finely patterned suit to come across without artifacting or moire on progressive displays.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Both 5.1 and Dolby Surround English tracks are included. The 5.1 track has good presence and is quite clean. The DS track is a bit less bright but on both it and the 5.1 the surround activity is limited to music for the most part. Danny Elfman's music sounds fine, without distortion or clipping.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are no extras at all. Chaptering is adequate.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

A somewhat creepy take on Pee-Wee Herman, but given a beautiful transfer without extras.


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