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Big Top Pee-Wee (1988)

The Pee-Wee Herman in this sequel to 1985’s Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985) is very much an adult. He has a great girlfriend – a school teacher named Winnie (Penelope Ann Miller) with a big penchant for egg salad.

He has a great farm too – replete with a talking pig named Vance, brown cows who produce chocolate milk, giant produce plants and his pride and joy, a hot dog tree.

Did you expect any less from a domicile designed by everyone’s favourite idea and gadget man?

But when the failing Cabrini Circus blows into town in the middle of a huge storm and lands on Pee-Wee’s property, his whole talking-animal, prodigious egg salad world is turned upside down.

He falls in love with a pretty trapeze artist named Gina (Valeria Golino) and befriends the troupe patriarch Mace Montana (Kris Kristofferson) and Mace’s pocket-dwelling three-inch tall wife, Midge (Susan Tyrrell). He’s also got a scheme to save Mace’s circus – why not put Pee-Wee’s various farm wonders and agricultural marvels under the big top?

Even with the talking animals, the world that director Randal Kleiser (GreaseBlue Lagoon) puts Pee-Wee into is still a bit more literal, and a bit less whimsical, than the live-action cartoon landscape found in Tim Burton’s Big Adventure.

This was Pee-Wee: the Dark. Unlike in Burton’s film, Pee-Wee is actually reviled by the townspeople and in a similarly uncharacteristic trait, Pee-Wee actually has a libido (symbolised in his aggressive, nearly fetishistic desire to stroke women’s hair).

Pee-Wee also encounters a very adult romantic dilemma on his hands – two great women, and only one grey-suited, red bow-tied inventor/farmer to go around! There’s even a hot n’ heavy make-out session with Gina. It was the Caligula of Pee-Wee movies . . .

Pee-Wee Herman
Paul Reubens

Penelope Ann Miller
Mace Montana

Kris Kristofferson
Gina Piccolapupula

Valeria Golino
Vance the Pig

Wayne White
Midge Montana

Susan Tyrrell
Mr Ryan

Albert Henderson

Jack Murdock

David Byrd
Mrs Dill

Mary Jackson
Mrs Haynes

Frances Bay
Joe the Blacksmith

Leo Gordon

Anne Seymour

Kenneth Tobey

Jay Robinson

Eve Smith
Paolo Piccolapupula

Andrew Shalit
Orin the Strongman

Franco Columbu
Snowball the Clown

Terrence Mann

Vance Colvig Jr.
Oscar the Liontamer

Matthias Hues
Duke the Dog-Faced Boy

Benicio Del Toro
Big John

Kevin Peter Hall
Zelda the Bearded Lady

Lynne Marie Stewart
Del the Human Cannonball

John Sherrod
Shim the Half Man/Half Woman

Joseph Arias

Helen Infield Siff

Carol Infield Sender

Judy Rubenfeld

Milton Rubenfeld

Mihaly ‘Michu’ Meszaros