Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Big Top Pee-wee (1988)

This follow-up to the 1985 hit PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE is a largely dismal and silly affair, filled with kidstuff humor that lacks the magic and charm of the earlier film. Reubens co-wrote the script, but the pacing and tone feel oddly off here, with moments of adult humor that seem out-of-place and out-of-character for a film that otherwise serves only as harmless entertainment for kids. What was lacking was a strong director like the first film had in Tim Burton. With Randal Kleiser at the helm this time around, the material never becomes quite surreal or cartoonish enough, and feels flat and uninspired as a result. The supporting cast, including Kris Kristofferson as the circus owner, Susan Tyrrell as his two-inch-tall wife, and Valeria Golino and Penelope Ann Miller as Pee-wee's unlikely love interests, are all effective enough but aren't given much to do with their roles. Similarly, there are some interesting characters among the circus troupe (a dog-boy, hermaphrodite, etc.), but not enough is ever made of them for them to register as more than just a series of one-off jokes.

Interestingly, it opens with an elaborate dream sequence with Pee-wee as a Sinatra-style crooner, who takes flight over the nocturnal countryside in order to escape his hordes of fans (shades of Fellini!) Unlike the Grand Prix bicycle race dream that opened the first film and directly foreshadowed the plot, the dream opening here is entirely isolated and has nothing to do with the rest of the film, and yet the premise of Pee-wee as a pop crooner is far more interesting than the film that follows.

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