Rated PG - Running time: 1:32 - Reviewed 4/30/98

For a low-profile kids' movie with a simplistic plot, Paulie, written by Laurie Craig and directed by John Roberts, is surprisingly enjoyable and features several notable names in the cast. People like Buddy Hackett, Wings's Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin, and Gena Rowlands are not exactly box-office busters, but they're not too shabby, either, and they all give heartfelt performances playing opposite a talking parrot with an attitude and a New York accent.

Paulie (voice of Jay Mohr) is introduced to custodian Misha (Shalhoub) in the basement of the animal research facility where he has been confined by Dr. Reingold (Bruce Davison) after displaying some undesirable behavior. When Misha hears him singing late one night, he discovers that this bird not only can talk, but has hours worth of stories in him, all about himself. Misha sits transfixed as Paulie relates all his experiences involving numerous people, all flawed in some ways, but from whom he gained many well-rounded perspectives on life. And it all started with Marie (Hallie Kate Eisenberg), the little girl who once called Paulie her own, and the one he's still trying to find.

This is a flashback movie, mainly involving Paulie's tireless efforts to find Marie, aided by the long string of unlikely owners among whom he is passed around. They all love and try to help him, and they are also helped by him to achieve some goal or ambition in their own lives.

But mostly it is a character study, showing Paulie's continual growth resulting from his association with each of his companions. He is first a lover and loyal pet because of Marie; he is an astute businessman and appraiser because of Artie (Hackett), the pawnshop owner; he is a poet and philosopher because of Ivy (Rowlands), from whom he also learns to fly; a performer because of Ignacio (Marin), who also made possible his introduction to a lover of his own kind, Lupe (voice of Tia Texada); etc. The complete individual we see at the end, in his cage, talking to Misha, is the result of the long journey he has taken, not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well.

Paulie is marred by an unfortunate decision on the part of Craig and Roberts. Apparently in order to achieve a PG rating, some minor profanity was included in the script, spoken by Paulie, at a time when it is arguably justified. This is really a minor incident, and could and should have been omitted from an otherwise touching and fun story. But it does take away from the innocence of Paulie, and parents who are easily offended should be warned. It's nothing your kids haven't heard at school or on TV (or perhaps even at home), but it's there.

Paulie is one of those dark horse movies, possibly destined to fade into oblivion after its run, but possibly to achieve the same sort of popular response enjoyed by Babe. It's cute, touching, fun, and at times overly sentimental. But it's a good afternoon's entertainment, if you're in the mood. ***½

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

See Current Reviews

See FilmQuips Archive