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Picks and Pans Review: Pee-Wee's Playhouse

updated 04/25/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/25/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Paul Reubens' Pee-wee Herman has become the kind of twitty kids' show host he was invented to lampoon—and an admirable one at that. This 80-minute tape includes three episodes from his Saturday morning TV series. Reubens has subtly lightened the satire in his act, so he's sweeter and less masochistic than he is in his adult incarnation. These three shows involve rainy-day activities, an invisibility spell and a cowboy visitor, spiced with the series' deft animation, claymation and computer graphics. The King of Cartoons shows his ancient footage, just as Captain Video crammed Western clips into its stories. Pee-wee's jokes run to tasting a salad and saying, "Ummmmm, salady," or musing over a piece of cauliflower, "Looks like a brain!" There are lapses of judgment. Kids may find a bit about prank phone calls ("Hello. Is your refrigerator running?") more inspirational than cautionary. As rendered by John Paragon, Jambi, the genie who appears as a head in a box, looks like a drag queen, with his turban, garish eye makeup and lipstick. Still, this is a lively, bright, contemporary alternative for children. (Hi-Tops, $79.95)

—Ralph Novak (A concurring opinion from Thaddeus Novak, 8: "Funnnnnnn-ny.")

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