Moviesludge’s review published on Letterboxd:
I always liked Big Top Pee-Wee as a kid. It's actually MORE competently made than Pee-Wee's Big Adventure although Big Adventure is far more entertaining (and probably my favorite movie of all time). And now as an adult, I appreciate Big Top even more than I did when I was little, because now I can understand the very important themes included in it.
The big main obvious theme is the insider/outsider thing. All the old white people represent the stuffy boring slow samey repetitive bs that a lot of old white conservative types hold dear. They're the kind of people who say "there goes the neighborhood" when they spot any non-white or non-straight people walking around. These people don't like change and they hate and fear what they don't understand, and they don't understand much. This is an extremely important theme to include in a children's movie. On top of that, this movie suggests that if those people could get in touch with their inner-children and just choose to have a little fun, they wouldn't be so grouchy and restrictive and closed-minded all the time.
The outsider theme is also important. Paul Reubens has always been a big supporter of weirdness in its many forms. Here in the circus, we've got all types. We've got a half lady/half man, a dog boy, a bearded woman, a mermaid, a tiny lady, a dashing leader guy, a clown, etc. This is a family that works together to put on an entertaining show for whoever has the inclination to come and watch it. Everybody is welcome in this family and nobody is ridiculed for being different. It's the differences that make these people interesting.
Another great theme of Big Top is finding your calling. Pee-Wee wants to be included in the circus, but he doesn't know what he's good at. Throughout the movie, he tries all kinds of different things until he ultimately discovers the thing at which he can excel. This is another fantastic message for a kid.
Yet another theme involves romantic relationships. It shows how you can get stuck in a rut with your gf/bf and even fall out of love without realizing it. I read some of the other reviews here and like 98% of everyone is hung up on the kissing scene between Pee-Wee and Gina because it goes on too long and is "inappropriate" for kids. I always thought it was kind of funny and ridiculous how long it goes on, and felt that the romance between Pee-Wee and Gina was intentionally way hammy and campy. It was probably Paul's big "fuck you" to everyone whispering about his sexual orientation and nobody got the joke.
This thing is just loaded with all kinds of good stuff (and funny stuff). I think a lot of people shit on this movie, likely because it doesn't match up to "Big Adventure", and that is unfortunate. It isn't as focused as Big Adventure, but there's plenty to like if you care to look.