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movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Paulie

Starring: Buddy Hackett, Tony Shalhoub
Director: John Roberts
Rated: PG
RunTime: 91 Minutes
Release Date: April 1998
Genres: Comedy, Family, Kids

*Also starring: Bruce Davison, Cheech Marin, Trini Alvarado, Matt Craven, Bill Cobbs, Jay Mohr, Tia Texada, Laura Harrington

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows video review
2.  Walter Frith read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
½ star out of 4

"Marie couldn't talk," Paulie, the parrot star of his own movie, tells us about the daughter in his original family. "Dad couldn't listen. And Mom couldn't cope, so they got rid of me."

PAULIE, the autobiography of a talking, not merely a mimicking, parrot, has Jay Mohr in the lead role of the bird - the voice, not the body - and as the minor character of Benny, a small-time crook who uses Paulie to pull off small scams like stealing twenties from ATMs. As the parrot, Mohr is delightful when director John Roberts allows him to cut up. Benny, on the other hand, is a character you've seen a thousand times before, and Mohr brings nothing new to that role.

Roberts's deliberately slow pacing of Laurie Craig's script lends a subtle sweetness to its humor but creates some definite problems. When a kids' movie wants to mosey along, watch out. If the material is not crisp and perfectly composed, beauty can sometimes dissolve into tedium. So it is with PAULIE. When they let their bird do his stand-up comedy routines, the show hums and the audience roars. Too often, however, a sleepy silence ensues among the viewers as they wait for the story to pickup again.

Tony Shalhoub, the smart-mouthed chef from BIG NIGHT, plays Misha, a recent Russian immigrant to the U.S. He had been a teacher of literature at home, but now he makes his living as a janitor in the animal research lab to which Paulie has been taken for study. Although Misha gets a few nice lines ("I'm Russian. I like long stories."), his somber part seems designed only to elicit our sympathy.

Besides Paulie, the only character worth noting - other than 2 cute small parts played by Cheech Marin and Gina Rowlands - is the speech-impaired Marie, played in a precious performance by cinematic newcomer, 5-year-old Hallie Kate Eisenberg. Naturally enchanting, she gives the picture genuine heart. The bad news is that her part is confined to the first half.

The best scenes have the bird dancing and strutting to show off his comedic skills. When Marie's family gets a cat, for example, the bird, who hasn't wanted to learn how to fly until then, takes an instant interest in soaring. Tricking the cat while insulting him at the same time, Paulie calls him a stupid hairball. Their rapid physical antics add to the humor of the situation. It's good quality sitcom material but performed by animals.

When one of the humans without much of a voice begins to sing, Paulie cringes. "I'm a bird," he explains with his frequently subtle humor. "I have a small brain, and it's about to explode." The movie contains rich doses of John Debney's dreamy music. With heavy use of a solo violin, he keeps reinforcing the film's heart-warming themes. And when Paulie finally takes off in flight, the orchestra comes up loud and strong with cymbals clashing.

"It's a long story," says Paulie. "It's the only kind he knows," reflects Misha. And the motion picture, which runs the standard length for a kids' movie, still feels too long. The best parts are enthralling, but then there are all of those dead spots in-between. PAULIE is a movie that never quite lives up to its promise but manages to charm nevertheless.

PAULIE runs 1:32. It is raged PG for a few mild profanities and would be fine for all ages.

My son, Jeffrey, age 9, gave the movie ** with his biggest complaint being that there wasn't enough action. He thought Paulie was funny, and the actress that played Marie was quite good. His friend Sam, almost 9, thought the movie was "awesome, excellent," and gave it ****. He thought Paulie was good, but he didn't believe the way Marie's speech impediment was acted.

Copyright 1998 Steve Rhodes

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