Big Top Pee-Wee

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Pee-wee Herman has a dream of being a famous singer. He makes his exit by disguising himself as Abraham Lincoln. One of the fans asks him for his autograph, but his disguise is promptly exposed. They chase after him and he flies off to his ranch. Pee-wee finally awakens from his dream that morning to work on his farm with Vance the pig. Later, he has lunch with his fiancée, schoolteacher Winnie Johnson. Next, he races Vance to a general store owned by Mr. Ryan to order a cheese sandwich with a pickle.

The sheriff warns everyone of a large storm approaching town. After the storm ends, Pee-wee emerges from his storm shelter to discover that an entire traveling circus has been blown into his backyard. Befriended by Cabrini Circus manager Mace Montana, Pee-wee is hoping to impress Gina Piccolapupula, a trapeze artist and the circus’ star attraction, thereby incurring the jealousy of his Winnie until she meets Gina’s older brothers: The Piccolapupula Brothers. Gina leaves Pee-wee when she finds out about Winnie, but later returns to him when she realizes that Pee-wee actually loves her.

Pee-wee wants to join the circus, but his attempts fail. Gina then tells Pee-wee about her deceased father Papa Piccolapupula who was a famous aerialist who suffered a fall performing the Spiral of Death. Gina states that Pee-wee should try walking the tightrope in his honor.

Mace comes up with a brilliant idea: to stage a three-ring spectacular saluting the American Farm. The problem is that the majority of the town’s residents are disgruntled, uncaring elderly people who have been demanding the circus Pee-wee is helping leave town.

The Sheriff and the townspeople show up and attempts to arrest Pee-wee, The Sheriff promises to drop the charges if the circus leaves town. While the Circus is packing, Mace tells Pee-wee they will do the circus somewhere else to prevent Pee-wee from going to jail, but Pee-wee saves the day when he sneaks modified cocktail weenies from his hot-dog tree to the townspeople, causing them to become children once again. Without any memories of what happened, the children watch Mace’s circus and Pee-wee perform


Pee-Wee Herman returns, complete with red bow-tie and small grey suit, to entertain audiences with another adventure. Big Top Pee-Wee is a film that I remember seeing when it came out, but don’t recall a thing about it. Guess that means I’ll have a fresh perspective on this cinematic tour de force, right?

What is this about?

Pee-Wee Herman joins the circus when a giant storm deposits a big-top tent — and the menagerie to go with it — in his front yard. Now it’s up to Pee-Wee, the animals and a troupe of circus performers to put on the best show the town’s ever seen.

What did I like?

Absurd. Those familiar with the work of Pee-Wee Herman are more than aware that it is anything but serious. As a matter of fact, it can be over the top. I mean, we are talking about a grown man who acts as like child while no one bats an eye. It is this detachment from reality that I really appreciated. This is a film that has cows producing chocolate milk, hot dogs growing on trees, etc. How can one not be drawn into the absurdity?

Small town. Living in a big city these last few years, I have come to realize that I miss small town life. As a matter of fact, in the town that I grew up in, they are having a peach festival this week. You don’t get that kind of down home activity anywhere but in small town, USA. So, perhaps that is why I identify so much with these small town folks. A handful of individuals who seem to know any and everything. No chain supermarket, but a general store (though it did have name brand products). A school taught by just one teacher. Ok, that seemed out of place and time, but you get the idea with the nostalgia for the perfect small town that I’m sure was the idea when this town was created for the film.

Talking pig. I actually did a bit of research the other day about talking pigs, and there aren’t as many films about them as you may think. Don’t ask why I was doing the research, just do with it. At any rate, Pee-Wee’s pig doesn’t spend the whole film talking, nor does he try to steal the show. He actually plays a sidekick role to Herman, which surprisingly works, even though we know him to be more of a solo act.

What didn’t I like?

Circus hate. For some reason, the people of the town hate the circus. It is never really said why, but they hate it so much that they do refuse service to the performers, attempt to have Pee-Wee arrested on some fabricated charges, and all but run the operation out of town before they even get settled. I couldn’t help but think that there was a story, or at least a flashback, that should have been shown to the audience explaining all of this to us.

All you need is love. There are just some things that are not meant to happen. Pee-Wee Herman having a love life is one of them. Having an innocent romance is fine, but this film has him cheating on his fiancée, dealing with relationship issues, and we see him kiss a girl. That kiss goes on for a good 5 minutes or so. It was very uncomfortable to watch. Do I not want Pee-Wee to find happiness in the arms of a good woman? That isn’t what I’m saying. I just don’t think of Pee-Wee as a sexual being, much in the same way Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory was before they ruined his character by bringing in Amy, but that’s a topic for whole different post.

Farm mystery. Where did Pee-Wee get this farm from? In Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, he was living in a small house in the city. Did a relative pass away and leave him some land? Did he get tired of the city life and move out in the country? What happened here? It just seems sudden for him to be in a totally different setting but, considering the different directors, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, should I?

Big Top Pee-Wee gets a lot of hate from fans and critics. Make no mistake, this is not a good film, but it doesn’t deserve the vitriol many spew towards it. The circus and farm plot actually work for me, but I can’t pardon the un-Pee-Weeing of Pee-Wee. A love story, a science angle, and he becomes an acrobat? What happened to him just being a goofy social outcast? Do I recommend this? Not really. If you want to see Pee-Wee, either watch the previous film or go on Netflix and watch some episodes of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

3 out of 5 stars

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