Patrick Pryor’s review published on Letterboxd:
"WHEN I FIRST MET THAT HIPPO, I WAS REALLY QUITE RUDE." - Vance the Talking Pig
Even though I love most things Pee-Wee, I hadn't watched this movie since I was a young'un. I remembered the movie being kind of boring, and the only scene that burned itself into my brain featured Pee-Wee and Winnie scarfing egg salad sandwiches on a picnic.
Revisiting Big Top Pee-Wee now, two things felt very off to me. First, this film takes place in some pseudo old fashioned time period (40s? 50s?) lacking many of the bizarre postmodern flourishes of Big Adventure or Playhouse I enjoyed as a kid. No wacky set design, or over the top absurd gags, or bite. Softball laughs are few and far between because much of the humor revolves around old fuddy duddies being offended by Pee-Wee's outrageous, selfish behavior. Throw in a time tested (dare I say, predictable?) circus plot, and you have a Pee-Wee movie catered much more toward kiddos than adults.
I also found it weird that Pee-Wee becomes sexualized in Big Top. I always thought of him as a man-child more interested in his bike or cool toys than losin' it, but in Big Top he becomes involved with two different women, and we even see him making out (yikes!). So uncomfortable to see Pee-Wee cheating on his fiancee and, in a nice parody of Hitchcock, putting his train in the tunnel of an acrobat.
Vance the Pig, as voiced by Wayne White (!), made me laugh really hard though. I like when he sang about his love affair with the hippo.