Paulie

1998, Movie, PG, 105 mins

Review

PAULIE
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Listen up: Paulie has things to say, and the fact that he's a parrot doesn't mean they can be ignored or dismissed as mere mindless mimicry of human speech. The love of Paulie's life is a sweetly grave little girl named Marie (Hallie Kate Eisenberg), whose parents give Paulie away because they think Marie's attachment to her pet is stifling her development. But Paulie isn't so easily cast off: He devotes himself to finding Marie, even after her family moves across the country, and along the way falls in with a variety of human companions. There's pawnshop owner Artie (Buddy Hackett), and aging widow Ivy (Gena Rowlands), who drives Paulie halfway to California in a rattletrap Winnebago before she's sidelined by failing sight. There's Ignacio (Cheech Marin), who owns a taco stand and a small flock of trained parrots, and there's Benny (Jay Mohr), a petty thief whose criminal exploits land Paulie where we first meet him: In a cage at an animal behavior research facility, from which he pours out his heart to a lonely Russian academic (Tony Shaloub) whose American dream is withering in a lowly janitorial job. Though not quite as perfectly pitched as BABE, to which comparisons are inevitable, this superior children's movie aims for the same emotional richness. Paulie's adventures, some of them very amusing, are driven by his love for and loyalty to Marie, and while the movie's tone is generally upbeat, it doesn't shy away from the sadness that's an inevitable part of life. The main draw is, of course, chattering Paulie, and the mix of real birds and special effects is seamlessly convincing. But the above-average human cast keeps the special-effects wizardry in the background, where it belongs: The story is rooted in real feelings and relationships, and parents will find as much to enjoy as children. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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