Film: Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (1988)
I’ll pretty much put up with anything that Pee-Wee Herman has to offer with a big stupid grin on my face. I’m not saying that the inevitable Christmas special that came out of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was any different, but I will say that there were a few moments while I watched this extravaganza when I wondered what the hell was going on. It’s certainly not half as triumphantly horrible as the Star Wars Holiday Special, though I’d have traded at least half of the special guest stars wandering through the Playhouse for one bartending Bea Arthur. I would, however, gladly keep Pee-Wee’s opening segment featuring a dancing choir of Marines.
The logical place to start discussing all the madness is at that legion of guest stars. Halfway through watching the Del Rubio Triplets prance around in the snow and croon out “Winter Wonderland,” I realized that I was watching what was supposed to be a kid’s show. It would be a very strange child who would give a rat’s ass about any of these guest stars, save maybe Magic Johnson.
Here’s a list: Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello serve as Pee Wee’s slave labor; Little Richard whines about not being able to ice skate; Whoopi Goldberg, Dinah Shore, and Oprah get blown off by Pee-Wee via Picture Phone; Cher mysteriously shows up and demands to know the Secret Word before creeping off like a creep; K.D. Lang flails around in song like some cracked-out Lady Elvis; Joan Rivers is onscreen for about five seconds; Zsa Zsa Gabor hangs out with a cow; professional plastic surgery victim Charo twitches out a song; and Grace Jones sings “Little Drummer Boy” in a tit-suit.
What child wouldn’t be irrevocably scarred by this star-studded cast?
Of course, between the brief strobe flashes of old-timey celebrities there’s the usual half-assed story about learning the true spirit of Christmas. In this case, it involves Pee-Wee not being such a greedy bitch that every other child on Earth is forced to go without presents. Of course, he comes around and gets to ride off with Santa, blah blah blah.
The real conscience of the show is professional nogoodnik puppet Randy, who pulls the plug on the Christmas tree and rails about the shallow commercialism of the holiday. Naturally, Pee-Wee quickly shuts down this unrest by showing him a video of white kids portraying the nativity in front of a bunch of Asian kids, which is somehow enough to calm Randy’s rebellious spirit. Lame!
Still, I’ll take Pee-Wee’s Christmas celebration. Most importantly, Pee-Wee’s in it.
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