When 'Babe' came out in 1995, it surprised critics with its stunning
quantity of special effects which enabled farm animals to talk by
simulating lip movement through computers and the magic went farther
than that by combining mechanical creatures with real ones. Seven
Academy Award nominations were inspired by that film (including Best
Picture) and it won one for Visual Effects. No doubt inspired by the
antics of 'Babe', 'Paulie' is a clever little film in its own right.
No doubt cynics will attack it for its simplicity, forgetting that
children are the main audience and many will trash the film as a direct
copy of 'Babe', when in fact it stands on its own merit by using
primarily one animal to carry the film instead of many. There are a
couple of brief scenes involving a few talking creatures, but one
character dominates in the end.
Paulie is a little talking parrot. All parrots can talk, you say?
Maybe, but how many can carry a conversation, think like and concoct
their own words like a human? Only in the movies. The first time we
see Paulie is in the basement of a scientific institute where he sort of
befriends a janitor, a Russian immigrant named Misha (Tony Shalhoub).
They talk and Paulie tells his story of how he ended up there in the
first place. He comes in to the world and is cared for by a little girl
named Marie, a child with a serious speech impediment. The girl's
parents begin to worry that the little girl is starting to confuse the
fantasy world with the real one, after she claims the bird can talk like
a human and the parents send the bird away breaking Marie's heart.
Paulie one day hopes to be reunited with her.
Paulie ends up in a New York City pawn shop whose owner (Buddy Hackett)
puts a high price on selling Paulie and he is eventually cared for by a
kindly old lady (Gena Rowlands) who takes Paulie to find Marie in Los
Angeles. Paulie eventually pushes himself to fly after convincing
himself for ages that he couldn't. He ends up in Los Angeles and
befriends a Spanish musician (Cheech Marin) and Paulie ends up working
for a con man (Jay Mohr), but later realizes that what he's doing is
wrong. The interesting thing is that Mohr, in addition to playing the
con man, also provides Paulie's voice in the film.
Kids were extremely well behaved at the matinee performance which I
attended and that has to say something about the quality of the film.
No animal makes for better entertainment in movie jokes than a parrot.
I'm thinking of the peg legged Peter Sellers in one of the Pink Panther
movies where the inflatable bird he had on the shoulder of his pirate
costume popped off after being over inflated and the scene where a
parrot laughs at Clouseau and goes to the bathroom on his shoulder after
Clouseau sticks his finger in a light bulb socket and feels the effects
of lethal electrocution.
This is such a simple movie that I don't want to say too much and ruin
it for kids who may be reading this except to say that 'Paulie' is a
truly touching film that entertained me more than the most recent heart
warming animal feature I saw last year, 'Air Bud', and if you thought
3.5 out of 5 was a high rating for 'Air Bud', look out cynics, 'Paulie'
Copyright © 1998 Walter Frith