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Big Top Pee-wee

Movie review by
Scott G. Mignola, Common Sense Media
Big Top Pee-wee Movie Poster Image
Uneven, loopy cult favorite.
  • PG
  • 1988
  • 86 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

An unusually libidinous Pee-Wee doesn't have the courtesy to break off his engagement before he starts kissing circus folk.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that while the plot of this movie is uninspired, children -- as well as adult fans of the peculiar cult character -- will enjoy seeing Paul Reubens back in his trademark red bow tie. Still, you're better off checking out Pee-wee's Big Adventure. The video is also hindered by what seems to be the wrong director at the helm. This mildly entertaining story is short on energy and excitement. Only Danny Elfman's exhilarating score maintains its enthusiasm throughout. But kids may like it. Its non-threatening circus people, a talking pig, and the peculiar lure of Pee-Wee himself should be enough to interest 6- to 8-year-olds. Older kids and preteens will enjoy the goofy story and odd characters.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of an infant and 1 year old Written byMommaOfTwoo November 21, 2012


Pee-Wee Herman, in general, is a character that I am not fond of. Children though will enjoy his antics and the Circus will keep them entertained.
Adult Written bygoodgirl January 4, 2017

pretty good.

I prefer this one than the one when he lost his bike. this one seems way more fun and funny.
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008
the cute lighthearted childrens show may have decieved parents and their young who fell in love with this rather different character. however, in this movie pe... Continue reading

What's the story?

In BIG TOP PEE-WEE, Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) has a farm, and a talking pig named Vance, too. Country life agrees with him, it seems. He serves his animals big pancake breakfasts, performs botanical experiments in his free time, and is engaged to the town's pretty schoolteacher, Winnie (Penelope Ann Miller). It's a life of contentment -- or would be if a storm hadn't blown a large circus and accompanying human oddities onto his property. Pee-wee finds himself in a quandary when he falls for beautiful trapeze artist Gina Piccolapupula (Valeria Golino). What should he do? Stay on the farm and marry Winnie, or follow his heart and find a niche for himself under the big top?

Is it any good?

Fans of the groundbreaking children's show Pee-wee's Playhouse will find this second feature starring Paul Reubens' famous alter ego rather slow and clumsy by comparison. Those new to cult figure Pee-wee Herman are advised to acquaint themselves elsewhere, as this venture may seem little more than a painful curiosity. Tim Burton's first Pee-wee feature, Pee-wee's Big Adventure was inspired, but director Randal Kleiser doesn't bring the proper sensibility to this sequel.

The script undermines Pee-wee's peculiar man-boy appeal by casting him as romantic figure. By hopping libidinously on his fiancée and kissing beautiful Gina, he's obviously meant to be a sort of human oddity. He certainly is that, but a lot of potential humor is sacrificed for the effect. Still, kids will find Pee-Wee hard to resist. They'll also like Vance the talking pig and the circus folk, including a tiny lady, a dog-faced boy, a mermaid, and the ringmaster, played by an out-of-place Kris Kristofferson.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Pee-Wee's character. How is he different than most people? Why would his character become so popular? Can you think of other off-beat characters who have achieved fame?

Movie details

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