Pee-wee Herman returned only a few years following his big screen debut Pee-wee's Big Adventure in this sequel which saw the off-beat man-child living on a farm and encounter a circus following an impromptu storm.
Tim Burton sadly did not come back to direct this one though Danny Elfman stayed on as composer delivering a very circusy score. The first thing you'll notice watching Big Top Pee-wee is that gone are the toys and gadgets, Speck and the iconic bike Pee-wee worked so hard to recover the last time. There's something a little off-putting about seeing Pee-wee live on a farm in a completely normal and unexciting room after the colourful treat that was the last film. Add to that the fact he lives in a small town where everyone inexplicably hates his guts and this looks set to be a depressing watch. Luckily, Pee-wee soon reveals a secret room where he's working on silly secret experiments (hot dog trees etc.) and the circus soon appears thereby giving the film a welcome shot of joy.
The plot becomes Pee-wee trying to help the circus to put on a show despite the town being reluctant to attend or allow it. There's also an amusing love triangle as Pee-wee is torn between his current girlfriend Winnie (Penelope Ann Miller) and trapeze artist Gina (Valeria Golino) which leads to what is probably the longest kiss in movie history. The circus is led by Mace (Kris Kristofferson) and his 3 inches tall wife Susan (Susan Tyrell), plus you might also spot an unrecognisable Benicio Del Toro in an early role as Duke the Dog-Faced Boy as part of the circus crowd. While the film isn't as bright and creative as Pee-wee's Big Adventure, the playful, juvenile spirit of the character remains and Big Top Pee-wee quickly grows into a surprisingly enjoyable, if inferior sequel.
This one might not convert the uninitiated into Pee-wee fanboys so I would recommend checking out Burton's film first but there's definitely plenty to enjoy here regardless. It's a more grounded adventure but it's one with enough magic and enough charm to make it worthwhile for kids and adults alike.