"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