Big Top Pee-wee ★★★

#15 in my 80's Week marathon. (Isn't every week 80's week, really?)

So, the first Pee-wee was art. Where do you go after that? I don't know. But, wherever Big Top Pee-wee wound up, it's in another world- a world of... Does anyone else get the impression that a good chunk of this film was just "Pee-wee" trying to reassure the public, after becoming a household name, that a 35-year old man playing a giant, flamboyant child was 100% hetero? Well: maybe I'm not as gay as *I* thought then- because if I were casting 2 women to "be jealous over" me in a movie, Valeria Golino and Penelope Ann Miller would quite be on the shortlist.

(Why? I might have bothered giving that a careful think-over until, after a little Wiki-digging, I read that Reubens went on to date Debi Mazar 5 years after this movie. In case you missed it, I described her here as an ideal 90's candidate for a live-action Maleficent.) (And, no, I don't care who disagrees.) (You don't get more rapturous than Maleficent in my book. Are these really coincidences, that we keep running into the same women - the film pic on my Twitter background has been Four Rooms for the last year, specifically the "Room" with Valeria Golino in it - I think not.)

All this threatens to be the only thing making this film memorable. But I'll contest- it gets even more bizarre than that infamous 2-minute kiss. (Coincidence that it's so infamous? I think not.) Mostly in Penelope's scenes. Like her carving Pee-wee's name out of a heart symbol on a tree while it bleeds. Or that proto-There's Something About Mary scene where her hair sticks up after Pee-wee's hand is pried out of it (he has a freaking fetish for running his fingers recklessly through women's hair, by the way; I'd bet on him having even less physical control over this habit than the Baltimore Foot Stomper) followed by her leaking clumps of egg salad from her sandwich onto his face. Which land on his cheek with max squish force, and stay there awkwardly, like this were a John Waters' film. Pee-wee is also a Magical farmer. He was a scientific / chemical farmer, until he perhaps-Much Too Conveniently invented cocktail wieners that biologically rewind their eaters back to childhood.

The biggest "flaw" of the film is just trying to watch Pee-wee get romantic with anyone. (Another reason I said in the previous film's review that I believe SpongeBob is a better Pee-wee, overall.) How many times can I shout "ABORT! ABORT!" in my head everytime he's seen in an unholy embrace with an insanely beautiful woman that your brain rejects harder than those assholes who freak out over pineapple on pizza (that wasn't a sly SpongeBob reference- I swear)? He is never dressed for Nature's Seductive Waterfalls as a photogenic background, even though that's why he's wearing that infernal suit-&-bowtie at all times. (His entire life is a postcard.) If this film had been released after Problem Child came out, images of Gilbert Gottfried in perpetual World's Slimiest Teacher/Counselor limbo would be littering my head. Which probably works somehow to the film's benefit. It's just one big huge What? How? Why? as a film. (Though... the sex scene. Just... No! No! That's how I know I'm not overreacting to the courtship scenes.) (Or the fact I have to call them courtship scenes.)

Most of its ideas are hopelessly corny and lame. But, unlike The Mask (or, perhaps more tragically, that same year's Elvira movie- which sincerely disappointed me after its opening scenes), they're outfitted with a daffy tone that only serves to invigorate them. Remember: this is prime-Beetlejuice era Danny Elfman. And you can hear it. Very clearly, very loudly. For all the finger-wagging, Pete's Dragon leftover, disapproving townspeople and dopey scenes of Pee-wee trying every stereotypical act in the circus - presumably to get cynical tykes of the late 80's to be delighted by something potentially becoming "old-fashioned" - the music warns that this could all turn into a full-fledged nightmare at any minute. As a follow-up to a film with Large Marge and that clown dream scene, you have to believe that. My nightmare came true: Pee-wee bedding a woman as nearly half that montage from Naked Gun 2 plays out.

Coming from the director of Grease, I was braced for a much larger disaster when I should have remembered that that film did succeed on occasion in being cheeky. (Instead of always being a giant mess with a narrative that hinged on turning Olivia Newton-John into a nicotine-flavored hag who looked twice the age of her prim-n-proper Sandra D incarnation. At least Frenchie could pull off that cotton candy hairdo!) It's clear within the first minute that this is going to at least be an interesting sequel. Kris Kristofferson's part is woefully undercooked but he was wonderful here, as would have been pre-Cry-Baby Susan Tyrrell with a bigger part. (No pun intended.)

No-Personality liked these reviews