Category Archives: Sequels

Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Their son becomes possessed.

A family moves into the infamous home at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York only to immediately start encountering paranormal events. Their eldest kid Sonny (Jack Magner) begins to display anti-social tendencies that eventually drive him to kill the entire family late one night. The family’s Priest Father Adamsky (James Olson) is convinced that Sonny did it because he was possessed from evil spirits that inhabit the home due to it being built on an ancient Indian burial ground and he takes it upon himself to perform an exorcism on the young man in order to free him of the demon.

The film is loosely based on the events of the DeFeo family, who lived at the residence, and was murdered by their eldest son on the night of November 13, 1974. However, the film deviates from what actually occurred including having the family just recently moved in when in reality the DeFeo’s had lived there for 9 years before they were killed. The film also portrays the family members as being awake and aware of what was going on when evidence had shown that most of them had been asleep when shot. There’s also a side-story dealing with a sexual relationship that Sonny had with his sister Patricia (Diane Franklin) that was only speculated never confirmed to have occurred with the real family.

This movie is only a slight improvement from the first one. Director Damiano Damiani manages to instill more of an atmosphere and uses fast moving tracking shots to create a point-of-view perspective of the demons. Also, James Olson plays the Priest role better than Steiger did in the first one by being less hammy and more understated, which is good.

Yet I still found the whole thing to be quite boring. The first half-hour is just a rehashing of many of the same scares that were done in the first one and we all know from the beginning how it’s all going to turn out, that the son will inevitably kill the family, so there’s no intrigue at all. The final half hour deals solely with the exorcism, which despite some decent special effects, is nothing more than a Grade B rip-off of The Exorcist.

There’s a lot of overacting too just like in the first one. Rutanya Alda, who plays the mother, is the biggest culprit in this area, which includes her death scene that deserves to be in the annals of all-time cheesiest death sequences ever put onto film. I was also confused why such an otherwise normal, well-adjust woman would want to marry a lout like Burt Young and having her show affection to him not more than a couple minutes after he had abused both her and the kids with a belt is misguided.

On the technical end the film seems to be done on a higher budget than the first, but the script is empty-headed and relies heavily on broad generalizations involving religion and ‘evil’. I also found it amusing that, like in the first installment, there’s a scene were the Priest tries to convince his church elders about the home being haunted and they scoff and insist that isn’t ‘rational’ when these same men have dedicated their lives to a profession steeped in supernatural, faith based claims.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: September 24, 1982

Runtime: 1 Hour 44 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Damiano Damiani

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Region B/2), Amazon Video

Staying Alive (1983)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Tony juggles two women.

It’s been 5 years and Tony Manero (John Travolta) is still struggling to make it big in the dancing world in this sequel to Saturday Night Fever. Now instead of working at a paint store he’s employed as a nightclub waiter while spending his days desperately going to every agent in New York looking for a break, but getting none. He’s in a relationship with Jackie (Cynthia Rhodes), but when a hot new dancer named Laura (Finola Hughes) catches his eye he decides to have a fling with her, which further complicates the fact that all three of them are dancing in the Broadway production of ‘Satan’s Alley’.

The idea of turning a classic movie into a sequel should’ve been given the kibosh from the start as that film conveyed such a perfect slice-of-life tale that it didn’t need any continuing. This film also doesn’t have any of the key players from the first including Donna Pescow and Karen Lynn Gorney. It was Travolta’s and Gorney’s relationship that made that movie sizzle, so if you’re not going to have her then why even bother making it as it’s hollow and incomplete otherwise. Too much time had also elapsed and disco was no longer trendy by the early ‘80s, so to compensate they tried gearing it more to the struggles of working on a dance line, but only succeeds at making it seem like a poor man’s version of A Chorus Line.

The romantic angle is uninteresting. Tony becomes attracted to Laura in the same way that he did with Karen Lynn Gorney, which was by watching her dance, which makes it formulaic and redundant. The Laura character is also quite kooky by constantly giving Tony the hot-and-cold act making her seem like someone with a split personality disorder. Jackie on the-other-hand is dull and catches on to Tony’s two-timing too quickly and then does nothing about it, which kills off any possible tension or drama. Tony himself is equally useless. Travolta plays him well, which is the only saving grace, as he manages create an engaging character despite the shitty way he treats Jackie, which normally would make him unlikable.

The scenes between Tony and his mother (Julie Bovasso) are touching and the best moments in the film although she’s played more like a real person here and not the comic caricature like in the first one. The garish set designs and special effects used to create the scenes for the play ‘Satan’s Alley’ at the end may be good for a few laughs, but it’s so over-the-top and campy that it degrades any serious intention that the film may have otherwise had. Watching the older audience members including Tony’s mother stand-up and applaud the play after it was over seemed disingenuous as I think most of them would in reality be rolling-their-eyes  and asking themselves ‘what the hell did I just watch’ instead.

The musical score, which was such a strong element in the first film, is completely lacking. Instead of a pounding soundtrack we get jazzy songs better suited for a quiet lounge. Absolutely nothing works except maybe inducing 93 minutes of boredom, which in that regards it does quite successfully.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: July 11, 1983

Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Teen Wolf Too (1987)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Werewolf goes to college.

Todd Howard (Jason Bateman) is the cousin of Scott who was the protagonist in the first installment of this series. Like with Scott, Todd has inherited the same werewolf tendencies although he is not fully aware of it as he enters into college on a boxing scholarship despite having very little athletic ability. However, once he gets into the ring the wolfman inside him comes out and he becomes an unstoppable boxer that allows his team to win and brings prestige to the university, but it also goes to his head as he becomes arrogant and obnoxious to all those around him.

The film starts out with a nice opening sequence showing the grounds of beautiful Pomona College, where it was filmed, but outside of that it’s downhill from there. The story repeats too many of the same gags that were in the first film and adds nothing new to the formula. It strays slightly by having the main character become arrogant, but this lasts for only a brief period before he mends his ways and goes back to the same guy that he was initially, which makes this plotline seem almost nonexistent.

The amount of time that he spends as the wolf is shockingly small. It takes 45 minutes before he completely transforms into the werewolf and then the final 32 minutes has him going back to being human as he learns the importance of ‘just being yourself’. Audiences aren’t looking for another preachy ‘life-lesson’ flick. They want something diverting and if the title says Teen Wolf then make it that way by having the majority of the runtime with him in that form and not just turn it into a side issue that eventually gets forgotten.

I had problems with the college atmosphere as well. I definitely like the on-location shooting, but the behavior of the students seems more like high school including cruel practical jokes as well as cliques that usually disappear when students get into their late teens.

John Astin’s administrator character is way over-the-top too. He plays the part in a fun campy way despite wearing a dreadful wig, but he comes off more like a domineering principal of the small high school than a college dean of major university who wouldn’t have the time to be so hands-on let alone get to the know the kids so personally as the student body would be too big.

The worst part though is the climactic boxing sequence, which becomes excruciating to sit through as it mixes in every annoying sports cliché that you can imagine. The attempt to recreate an exhilarating Rocky-like final is so horribly botched that goes beyond just being embarrassing.

The concept is intriguing, but the producers have to give the idea a chance to breath and not compress it into just another manufactured, sanitized flick aimed solely at the preteen crowd. There are so many interesting angles that the story could’ve gone that it’s a sad waste seeing what they end up doing with it.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: November 20, 1987

Runtime: 1 Hour 34 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Christopher Leitch

Studio: Atlantic Releasing Corporation

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

Cannonball Run II (1984)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Too much lame humor.

Since the first installment of this franchise ended up taking in $72 million and becoming the 6th highest grossing film of 1981 the studio heads in their typical fashion decided to capitalize on it and squeeze as much breath out of the cornball concept as they could, which lead to this ill-advised sequel. As lame as the first one was this one is even worse and even less focused on racing.

The actual race, if you can call it that, doesn’t begin until 45 minutes in with the whole first half spent dealing with the silly backstories of how each ‘zany character’ decides to get back into the event, which is all very unnecessary and just an excuse to bombard the viewer with an onslaught of stupid gags that are on a kindergarten level. Once the race does get going it’s spent dealing with cartoonish stunts and then ends with a long drawn-out fight between the drivers and some gangsters, which makes it seem like it shouldn’t be called a racing movie at all.

Roger Ebert described the film as “one of the laziest insults to the intelligence of moviegoers that I can remember” and he’s right. Some silly humor is okay, but there needs to be another added element. For instance in The Gumball Rally, which wasn’t all that great, but still far better than this, there was the same silliness, but at least there was also one scene showing from a driver’s point-of-view a car speeding down the closed off streets of Park Avenue, which was that film’s best moment. In Paul Bartel’s Cannonball! you had a horrific car crash, which was controversial, but at least gave it some sort of edge. This film has no edge it’s just one-dimensional stupidity from the first frame to the last. The opening sequence is almost shot for shot the exact same as the one in the first installment, which shows how limited writer/director Hal Needham’s creative well likely was.

The only interesting aspect about it as with the first movie is the eclectic cast. Dean Martin for what it’s worth looks much more energized here than he did in the first one and Sammy Davis Jr. is quite funny and if they had built the film around him it would’ve been an improvement. It’s also fun seeing Richard Kiel playing a more normal type of person and not just a doofus giant caricature like he usually got stuck with. However, this installment also has Alex Rocco and Abe Vigoda playing gangsters who try various inane ways to stop Jamie Farr’s Arab character from winning, which makes the stunts in an old Wily E. Coyote/Road Runner cartoons seem genuinely highbrow by comparison.

I was surprised to see Shirley MacLaine in this thing. She possibly took the part so she could reunite with her Rat Pack co-stars even though she never appears in any scene with them, but she had just gotten done winning the Academy Award for Terms of Endearment and it was like receiving all the accolades and prestige that comes with that award and then immediately throwing it all in the toilet by doing something that was completely beneath her talents. Her part is quite small and insignificant. Marilu Henner, who plays her partner as two out-of-work actresses disguised as nuns, comes off better and looks younger and prettier, which made me think Maclaine’s role could’ve been excised completely and simply combined with Henner’s.

What’s even more surprising is the presence of Reynolds. Back in 1982 he stated that he wasn’t going to do anymore ‘car chase movies’ and even turned down on an offer to star in Smokey and the Bandit III for that reason, so then why star in something that is just as bad or even worse. I think he can be a strong actor if given a good script and  I meet the man back in 1995 and shook hands with him during a book signing, so I don’t mean to seem overly harsh, but his brand became stigmatized by doing too many of these ‘good-ole’ boy’ productions and he was never able to recover. He had a brief renaissance with Boogie Nights, but that was about it. Starring in ‘Evening Shade’ doesn’t count because TV work is considered a downgrade from being in the movies and usually only taken when the movie roles dry up. The scene where he dresses up in a harem costume and pretends to be a female dancer is particularly demeaning and has to be considered an embarrassing career low point for any star that was once considered a male hunk.

Fortunately the audiences had wised up and after a strong opening weekend the film’s box office returns plummeted and it only ended up grossing $28 million, which was far less than the first one. This thankfully slowed up the need to make any more cannonball movies although in 1989 they made one more called Speed Zone, which because I’ve become very burnt out with these car racing flicks will be reviewed at a later time…a MUCH later time.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: June 29, 1984

Runtime: 1 Hour 48 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Hal Needham

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Class of ’44 (1973)

class-of-44

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hermie goes to college.

In this sequel to Summer of ’42 Hermie (Gary Grimes) and Oscy (Jerry Houser) graduate from high school and begin attending college while their friend Benjy (Oliver Conant) joins the army and goes off to war. Hermie takes part in a wide range of college adventures including starting up a relationship with headstrong budding feminist Julie (Deborah Winters) as well as learning to cope with the untimely death of his father.

As sequels go this one is unnecessary. The story in the first one had a perfect slice-of-life plot that needed no further exploration of the characters. Everybody seems out-of-place here as we keep expecting to hear the background noise of the crashing ocean waves, which was a strong element from the first film as well as an explanation as to what ever happened to Dorothy who never gets mentioned even in passing.

The boys look too young to be attending college particularly Hermie who still resembles a pre-teen not quite out of puberty while Benjy is seen only briefly at the beginning and then essentially forgotten. The scenes dealing with the death of Hermie’s father aren’t particularly compelling because in the first film the father was never shown or mentioned, so it seems like a story arch thrown in for cheap emotional dramatics and nothing more.

Unlike the first film this script by Herman Raucher is not based on any actual events in his life and comes off more like a broad generalization of what can happen to just about any student who attends college with the particular time period of the 1940’s not carrying much weight. The plot is episodic and not story driven, but there are still several enjoyable scenes including one where Hermi and Oscy and several other boys try to cram themselves inside a phone booth as part of a fraternity initiation.

The performances are good and I enjoyed seeing Hermie grow into a mature young man as well as William Atherton as a snotty fraternity brother in a part he seemed born to play. Winters though steals it as a headstrong young lady who shows shades of insecurity at the most unexpected times.

The production values are an improvement and the story has a nice comedy/drama blend. Those that attended college may take to it better, but overall it’s a generic excursion that leaves one with a flat feeling when it’s over.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 10, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Paul Bogart

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Video

Mad Max 2 (1981)

mad max road warrior 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 10 out of 10

4-Word Review: A battle for gas.

Years after a nuclear holocaust has depleted the planet former rogue cop Max (Mel Gibson) travels the scorched countryside looking for food and fuel. He meets up with a pilot (Bruce Spence) who guides him to an oil refinery that is under attack by a gang of marauders led by Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson). Max agrees to help out those trapped inside by driving a tanker truck carrying the fuel out of the refinery and through the makeshift gauntlet, but even he wasn’t prepared for the relentless and violent attack that awaits him.

The film is such a massive improvement over the first installment that viewers could just skip that one and go straight to this as it is far more polished and comes off like an epic while the first seemed more like a rough draft done by amateurs looking to get their feet wet. All the problems that I had with the first one get smoothed out here including a good intro that helps explain how the characters got to where they are. Dean Semler’s widescreen photography of the vast, flat desert landscape is outstanding and the violence is far more graphic, although significant portions of it were trimmed to achieve the R-rating, but it still realistically replicates the savage nature of the desperate characters living in a lawless land and willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want.

The vehicle chase at the end is one of the best ever filmed. The editing is quick with no ill-advised slow motion sequences or annoying cutaway or close-ups. The action happens just like it would in real-life where everything is split-second. The good guys don’t miraculously avoid injury or death either and in fact there’s enough bloodshed from both sides that you begin to wonder if anyone will make it, which creates far more authentic tension than most action pics. Yet what I really liked was that there were no irritating computerized effects. The vehicles used are all real with expert stunt driving and incredible stunt work that rates as some of the most dangerous ever to be tried on film.

mad max road warrior 2

The only minor letdown is the fact that Gibson’s character no longer has that clean-cut, choirboy image and is now more of the moody, clichéd loner dressed in a getup that doesn’t look much different than the bad guys. The first film had more of an interesting contrast, but here he at least gets partnered with a dog, which the producers managed to save from being euthanized, and a feral boy (Emil Minty) who has a nice ability to throw a mean metal boomerang.

Many critics at the time considered this to be the best action flick to have come out of the ‘80s, but I’d consider this to be quite possibly the best action movie ever made! Absolutely everything clicks from the first shot to the last and remains intense, exciting and gripping even after repeated viewings. However, watching it on the small screen will not do it justice and only broadcasting it in the cinema or a very large screen HD TV will do.

mad max road warrior 3

mad max road warrior 4

My Rating: 10 out of 10

Alternate Title: The Road Warrior

Released: December 24, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated R

Director: George Miller

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985)

european vacation

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: The Griswolds tour Europe.

After winning a trip to Europe Clark (Chevy Chase) and his family set out to see the sights. First they go to London and France and then Germany only to end up in Italy where they get involved with a couple of thieves. Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) also becomes an international porn star when stolen video of her singing naked in the shower gets shown at the local adult theaters.

Although John Hughes is credited as the co-writer he had nothing to do with the script and the majority of blame for this mess goes to Robert Klane. Klane burst onto the scene during the early ‘70’s with the brilliant Where’s Poppa that deserves to go down into the annals of all-time original comedy, but his output since then has proved to be mediocre and the uninspired humor here is no exception. The comedy in the first installment was solely focused on all the amusing elements that can occur when a family takes a trip, but here gags of any kind get thrown in with much of them being crude and pointless.

The performers who play Rusty and Audrey are poor replacements to the ones in the first film. Anthony Michael Hall was asked to reprise his role, but decided to commit to doing Weird Science instead. After he bowed out it was decided to then cast a new person in the Audrey role as well, but the presence of the teens here is not as fun. In the first film they were portrayed as being the sensible ones, which made for an amusing contrast to the more child-like Clark, but here they are straddled with the generic issues of the everyday teen, which isn’t funny or interesting and includes Audrey dealing with an eating disorder and having a nightmare where she stuffs her face full of junk food, which is gross.

There is also a potpourri of recognizable character actors who appear briefly in bit parts and include : Eric Idle, John Astin, Paul Bartel, Robbie Coltrane, Moon Unit Zappa and Victor Lanoux all of whom get wasted to the point where I was surprised they even agreed to appear unless they just really needed the money. The side-story dealing with the Griwolds and some thieves is dumb and looks to have been written in simply to pad the running time.

Chase himself has gone on record to state that he dislikes this film and it’s easy to see why. The on-location shooting is nice, but everything else falls horribly flat. In fact the only funny gag in the whole thing is when Clark gets trapped in a London roundabout and is unable to make a left turn, which forces him to drive in circles for hours, which apparently isn’t such an uncommon occurrence.

european vacation 2

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: July 26, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Amy Heckerling

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Fletch Lives (1989)

fletch lives

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Reporter inherits a mansion.

Fletch (Chevy Chase) who writes for a Los Angeles newspaper under the byline of Jane Doe, receives to his surprise an inheritance of an old southern mansion. He immediately travels to the place while quitting his job in the process. The building is in bad shape, but he finds that he is receiving a generous offer to sell it, which makes him curious. Instead of taking the offer he does some research and finds that the property is a dumping ground for dangerous chemicals and that people are more than happy to murder him and others in order to keep them quiet about it.

The first film was based on a novel by George Macdonald, but this story was written directly for the big screen and the mystery is uninspired and obvious. Chase’s detached persona and acerbic wit gets put to a real test here. One scene has him discovering that the woman who he has just spent the night with is now dead, but he shows no shocked reaction at all making him seem almost inhuman. He then decides to smart-off to the police when they arrive to investigate even though any sane/half-way intelligent person would realize that would just get them into even more trouble, which it justifiably does here.

The character also has an unrealistically massive-sized ego especially in regards to his job and the arrogant way that he deals with his boss (Richard Libertini) acting almost like he is above the rules and can come and go whenever he pleases without having to answer to anyone. Now this behavior to some extent could be more justified if he was writing under his own name and had a large fan following, but to the readers he is just ‘Jane Doe’ and for all they know he is a woman instead of a man. In either case he could easily be replaced by another reporter writing under the same byline and no one would notice or care, which makes his entitled attitude completely out-of-line and one that should have gotten him fired long ago.

There is also no explanation to what happened to the Gail character, which was played by Dana Wheeler-Nicholson. The first film ended with the two of them supposedly falling-in-love, but in this film she has completely disappeared. Now the first installment came out 4 years earlier and a lot of relationships don’t last that long, so it’s possible that they simply broke-up and moved-on, which is fine. However, in this movie her character gets replaced by one who looks just like her (Julianne Phillips) and she falls-in-love with Fletch in much the same way making the plotline seem highly formulaic and like they are simply replacing one blue-eyed, blonde bimbo with another.

The humor is generic and juvenile although I’m ashamed to say I did find myself chuckling at some of it. The best moment is a take-off on The Song of the South that comes complete with animation and by far the film’s one and only inspired moment.

The action sequences are flat. In the first film there was an exciting car chase, which was passable, but here we get treated to a motorcycle chase that goes completely off the believability meter by having Fletch do stunts that no one with limited driving experience would try nor survive.

The supporting cast is wasted especially Hal Holbrook in a part that is completely beneath his talents. However, I did get a kick out of R. Lee Ermey. He gained a major cult following from his performance as a tough sergeant in Full Metal Jacket and gets cast here as a TV-evangelist, which I found interesting.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: March 17, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Michael Ritchie

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Ghostbusters II (1989)

ghostbusters 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Called back into action.

It’s been 5 years since our team of Ghostbusters (Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd) saved New York City from impending ghostly doom only to be thanked by getting sued for all the damage they created in the process, which promptly sent them out of business. Now though there are signs of an even worse attack from the supernatural in the form of an ectoplasmic river underneath New York, which is being strengthened by all of the negative energy from the citizens that live there. Can our team of heroes put on their uniforms once more and save the city from yet another ghostly attack while also coming to the aid of Dana (Sigourney Weaver) who finds that an ancient sorcerer (Wilhelm Von Homburg) is trying to possess her newborn child?

The premise pretty much starts the film out on bad footing and it’s never able to recover. The idea that they’d be driven out of business by a barrage of lawsuits didn’t make much sense to me. The ghosts that were terrorizing Dana’s apartment building in the first film were witnessed by thousands of spectators as they stood outside on the ground and watched the three men drive them away, so they should’ve been viewed as heroes and those that tried to sue them would’ve been vilified. Besides it was the mayor (David Margulies) who gave them the permission to do whatever they needed to do to take the ghosts out, so if anyone was to be a target for the lawsuits it would’ve been his office and the city. What is even worse is that after the first 40 minutes the story eventually goes back to the original premise where the team becomes popular again and their services are in-demand, so why couldn’t the film simply started from that point as it makes the entire first act come off like a complete waste of time otherwise.

Although it’s great to see Janet Margolin, who plays a prosecuting attorney, in her last film appearance, the court room scenes are static and not right for this type of genre. The ghosts are not scary or frightening like they were in the first one either and instead come off as cartoonish and boring.

Murray gets pigeonholed in a dull routine where he spends most of the time trying to desperately rekindle his romance with Dana, which isn’t interesting. Ramis and Aykroyd seemed more intent on stealing back some of Murray’s thunder by not having him come along on a few of their missions including a long segment where they discover the evil river underneath the city, which is just not as funny without Murray there.

Weaver pretty much just goes through the motions in a part that really does not allow her much to do. I was also confused as to why she had been a musician in the first film, but in this one she had strangely crossed over into being a painter. Rick Moranis and Annie Potts are equally wasted and forced into a makeshift romance simply because the writers didn’t know what else to do with them.

William Atherton, who was so good at playing the prissy, arrogant heavy in the first film, gets sorely missed. Kurt Fuller tries to take up his slack, but he is not as effective. Former wrestler von Homburg plays the evil sorcerer, but his voice ended up being dubbed by Max von Sydow, which made me wonder why they didn’t just cast him in the villainess role to begin with since he was the far better actor.

Just about all the jokes fall flat and the climactic finish which features an animated Statue of Liberty is really lame. The story is never able to gain any traction or momentum, doesn’t add any new or interesting angle to the theme and should’ve been trashed before it was even made.

My Rating: June 16, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Ivan Reitman

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, Amazon Instant Video

Big Top Pee-Wee (1988)

big top pee wee

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Pee-Wee joins the circus.

Pee-Wee (Paul Reubens) is now living the quiet life of a farmer. He’s not too popular with the older townsfolk of the neighboring small town where he resides, but manages to find friends with the circus that blows in after a violent storm. Although he is currently engaged to Winnie (Penelope Ann Miller), who is the beautiful local schoolteacher, he soon finds himself entranced with the trapeze artist Gine (Valeria Golino), which causes a great deal of conflict especially after Winnie finds out about it.

I’m not exactly sure why Tim Burton wasn’t brought in to direct this sequel and it could have something to do with the fact that a different studio produced it, but his vision is noticeably missed. Randal Kleiser has directed some good movies of his own, but never anything is this type of genre. It was Burton’s direction and not Pee-Wee’s persona, which is rather one-dimensional and can only be amusing in small doses, that made the first film the success that it was.  Burton infused a lot of garishly colorful sets, oddball characters that complemented Pee-Wees’, and a surreal storyline that all helped to make it strangely intriguing and funny, but here we get none of that.

Instead it is a contrived and conventional storyline that goes nowhere and just isn’t original enough to be worth catching. The first half comes off as disjointed and makes little sense. Pee-Wee seems to have gone back into time as the people in the town where he lives all wear clothes and drive cars that look that they are from the 1940’s, but with no explanation for why that is. The presence of the circus is equally stupid as it seems to have quite literally ‘blown in’ with the storm and into Pee-Wee’s backyard.

The film really gets boring when it focuses on the romantic subplot, which is what takes up the film’s whole second half. One big issue is why would two really beautiful women find this man-child attractive to begin with? A much funnier scenario that would’ve kept more with the bizarreness of the character would be for him to have a romance with one of the sideshow freaks at the circus like the bearded lady, or even the Siamese twins, which could’ve been played up to an even funnier level by having both twins in-love with him and compete for his affections, or having one in-love with him while the other couldn’t stand him.

In either case the film is just not weird enough to be entertaining and it also leans towards the formulaic by having most of its humor aimed at the kiddie crown, which the first one had thankfully avoided. A definite letdown when compared to the first one.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: July 22, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 26Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Randal Kleiser

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube