A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, although there's nothing objectionable in this film, Pee-wee isn't the most outstanding role model for children. He's crass occasionally and likes to poke fun, but he's also inventive, vulnerable, and loads of fun. Pee-wee learns a bit about Hanukkah and holiday card-making, even more about sharing. Kids will learn how to say "Merry Christmas" in Spanish, even if Pee-wee has some trouble.
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What's the story?
It's Christmas at the Playhouse and everybody's bringing fruitcake. Between putting Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello to work making holiday cards, teaching Little Richard how to ice skate, and going for a wild sleigh ride with Magic Johnson, Pee-wee manages to dictate a Christmas wish list long enough to choke a reindeer and decorate the Playhouse in anticipation of Santa's arrival. When Santa arrives, it's with less than merry tidings. It seems that Pee-wee's covetousness has deprived the rest of the world's children of their own presents. But not to worry. It's not too late to put things right, and learn a valuable lesson about sharing. Special guests include Cher, Magic Johnson, and, yes, the man himself, Santa Claus, who has a bone to pick with his host. Musical guests include Dinah Shore, Grace Jones, Charo, k.d. lang, and the Del Rubio Triplets.
Is it any good?
For a sure-to-please stocking-stuffer, you can't go wrong here. At this most festive time of year, let's give thanks to Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman) not only for giving us the phenomenally inventive Pee-wee's Playhouse series that enlivened children's programming in the mid-1980s, but also for delivering this refreshingly untraditional 1988 Christmas special.
A fresh alternative to the Rankin-Bass brand of cuteness that permeates the season, PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL isn't syrupy, yet there's a very palatable sweetness to it. The innocence is attributable mostly to Reubens' chuckling man-boy character, but also to the creative talents behind the show and to the endearing Playhouse regulars who include Reba the Mail Lady, Cowboy Curtis, Miss Yvonne, and Jambi the disembodied genie. Behavior-wise, Pee-wee isn't the most outstanding role model for children. He's crass occasionally and likes to poke fun (maybe that's what makes him so identifiable), but he's also inventive (wait 'til you see what he does with all those fruitcakes he's left with), vulnerable, and loads of fun.
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