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Paulie is a parrot who can speak -- not mimic -- but actually converse. Paulie's first owner -and first love - is a little girl named Marie (Hallie Kate Eisenberg) who raises him from a baby. Helping Marie overcome a painful stutter gives Paulie the gift of gab, but doesn't prevent Marie's parents from sending Paulie away when they feel she is becoming too attached to him. Undeterred, the loyal little parrot begins a long cross country search to find his young owner. Along the way, Paulie has some remarkable encounters with a unique cross-section of people, some who want to help and some who see the extraordinary bird as a means to their own ends. He even finds love with a singing parrot owned by a street vendor named Ignacio (Cheech Marin). But nothing can stop him from his mission to find Marie - except perhaps his own big mouth!

Any children's film that doesn't insult its target audience or adults in attendance is worthy of praise. Paulie is a respectable member of the talking animal brigade whose adventures make for pleasing family entertainment.

The parrot in question has been consigned to the basement of an animal research centre run by Dr Reingold (Bruce Davison). Paulie's a lonesome guy who's been separated by cruel twists of fate from Marie (Hallie Kale Eisenberg), the little girl he loves and helped to overcome a stuttering problem. Befriended by janitor Misha (Tony Shalhoub), a Russian literature professor finding it tough in the new land, Paulie relates the story of his life as one lost soul to another - "I'm Russian, I like long stories" says Misha.

The cheeky bird's post-Marie adventures include a stint in a pawn shop owned by veteran comic Buddy Hackett, a road trip with spirited widow Ivy (Gena Rowlands) and singing in a Mariachi ensemble led by Ignacio (Cheech Marin). The moral of the movie is contained in Paulie's choice of speaking partners. Sweet Marie, honest Ivy and good-hearted Ignacio are all rewarded for their character by experiencing the miracle of parrot-talk while nasty Dr Reingold and scheming crook Benny (Jay Mohr, who also voices Paulie) are punished for failing to make good on promises of re-uniting Paulie with his long-lost Marie. It's gently done and carried off in style by a cast way better than you might expect to find in a kid's film. Shalhoub is a sympathetic listener, Marin right at home as the proprietor of an East LA open air restaurant and Rowlands magnificent as always as the widow with a Winnebago who whisks her new pal on a cross-country trek.

Best of all for the rugrats is Paulie himself, a loveable bird who's mischievous without being a smart-alec and whose bag of tricks should keep smiles on the youngsters faces from start to stop. There are no fancy additions here but unless your kids are already demanding commentary tracks on their DVDs this isn't an issue. Without being a classic Paulie is good family viewing and a worthy addition to the moppet movie library.
Richard Kuipers

Published July 19, 2001

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PAULIE [1998] (G)

CAST: Tony Shalhoub, Gena Rowlands, Jay Mohr, Cheech Marin, Bruce Davison,
Jay Mohr

DIRECTOR: John Roberts



DVD RELEASE: May 30, 2000

SPECIAL FEATURES: Trailer. Languages: English, Dutch, German. Subtitles:
English (H.O.H), Dutch

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