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
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
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