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Image Entertainment presents
Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special (1988)

"What would you put on my Christmas list if you were me? A new car? Hm. Cooking utensils? Ecch. Hm. Cash? Good idea. Always a practical gift."
- Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: December 15, 2004

Stars: Paul Reubens, Laurence Fishburne, S. Epatha Merkerson, Lynne Marie Stewart, William Marshall, John Paragon, Vic Trevino, Suzanne Kent, Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello
Other Stars: Charo, Zsa Zsa Gabor, The Del Rubio Triplets, Whoopi Goldberg, Magic Johnson, Grace Jones, k.d. lang, Little Richard, Joan Rivers, Dinah Shore, Oprah Winfrey
Director: Wayne Orr, Paul Reubens

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 00h:47m:59s
Release Date: October 19, 2004
UPC: 014381251524
Genre: holiday

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+B-A- C-

DVD Review

The Pee-wee's Playhouse series is certainly one of the weirdest, if not highest, points in kids' television over the years. During the third year of the series, Pee-wee (Paul Reubens) hosted this Christmas special that also functioned as a parody of other Christmas specials.

The plot, such as it is, is pretty thin: Pee-wee has greedily compiled a huge Christmas list for Santa, and as he waits for the big day he's visited not only by all the regulars, including Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne), Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart) and the King of Cartoons (William Marshall) but a plethora of guest stars, all of them icons of kitsch. Many of them are onscreen for only a few seconds, in a sharp satire at the usual overstuffed Christmas special. The standard animation and strangeness is present throughout, as are the expected fruitcake gags.

Pee-wee is even more so than usual a combination of wide-eyed innocence and cruel mean-spiritedness; several guests are featured just for him to abuse and Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello are reduced to slavery for Pee-wee's Christmas card operation. There is an inclusion of a Hanukkah segment (surely one of the earliest such segments in a Christmas special), with discussion of the holiday by Mrs. Rene (Suzanne Kent), plus the disclosure that the claymation dinosaurs are actually Jewish. A couple of musical numbers are featured, including a very strange Grace Jones rendition of The Little Drummer Boy, a scorching semi-Italian Jingle Bell Rock from an enthusiastic k.d. lang, and a great Feliz Navidad from none other than Charo. Dinah Shore proves she's a good sport with a running gag about an endless rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas. It's classic Pee-wee oddness and highly recommended for your holiday viewing.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture appears to be shot on video; it has a very soft appearance and there's a fair amount of noise and aliasing. Color is unstable, particularly in the fleshtones, which vacillate between pink and green. A lot of this is a problem with the source material, so I expect that this is a reasonably good rendition of material that really will never look any better, and the grade is accordingly not as low as it might be.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The sound is fine, without much in the way of hiss or noise. The songs and dialogue are surprisingly vibrant and have a very nice presence. For some reason switching audio tracks with the remote is disabled.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 6 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English (closed captioning only)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1) Paul Reubens, writer/Jambi John Paragon, animation producer Prudence Fenton, Lynne Marie Stewart; 2) Puppeteers
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only extras are a pair of commentaries. The one with Paul Reubens is a serious disappointment as he has little interesting to say, and his compatriots try to keep things going but lengthy stretches of silence occur anyway. A second track with the puppeteers is significantly more entertaining and has less dead time. But neither is essential. Chaptering is generous for such a short program.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Nothing says Christmas fun like Pee-wee mocking and abusing the famous while exposing his own greed and self-centered personality. Unfortunately, the transfer is mediocre and the commentaries add little.


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