Picks and Pans Review: Big Top Pee-Wee

updated 08/08/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/08/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

In Pee-wee Herman's first movie, 1985's Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, our nerdy, bow-tied hero lost his bicycle. In this circus-theme follow-up, he loses his virginity to a trapeze artist, gorgeous Valeria Golino (see p. 58). "Heh-heh," as Pee-wee might say. Kiddie movies sure have come far since Snow White. Too far, according to most critics. "Remarkably unfunny" was the New York Times's not atypical judgment. You can almost hear Pee-wee responding with his usual boomerang putdown: "I know what you are, but what am I?" What you are, Pee-wee, is a pale shadow of your former delightfully demented self. Those love scenes with Golino and schoolteacher Penelope Ann Miller that take up half the movie are standard mush, except that you wear more makeup than the girls. There should be more of you on the farm with your talking pig, more circus acts, more sight gags. What happened to the ingenuity director Tim (Beetlejuice) Burton brought to your Adventure? Burton's successor, Randal (The Blue Lagoon) Kleiser, is a dim bulb. His handling of the actors, especially circus head-man Kris Kristofferson (is it my imagination or is he turning into Gabby Hayes?) and Susan Tyrrell as Kris's two-inch-tall wife, should lose him his Directors Guild card. But Kleiser's not the main culprit. Who is? Don't ask, "Who wants to know?" The credits list Paul Reubens as co-writer and co-producer. And Paul Reubens is your real name, Pee-wee. You get the blame. Sorry. Heh-heh. (PG)

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