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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 6/1/99

1998 (1999) - DreamWorks S.K.G.

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Paulie Film Rating: B+
Yeah, yeah... I know it's a film about a talking parrot, but what can I say? I really liked it. The film is sweet, but not overly so, and actually manages to be touching as well. And some great supporting performances easily make it worth a watch.

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A+/A/B
The anamorphic widescreen video quality is excellent, and you get full frame as well. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is fun and well mixed. The menus are priceless - just a blast to enjoy. A couple of extras are also included.

Overall Rating: A
This a great film for the whole family to enjoy together. It's funny, touching, and there are some nice little bits of life philosophy thrown in to discuss with the kids. And heck - the parrot is just a darned cute little guy!

Specs and Features

92 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, production notes, cast & crew bios, film-themed menu screens with animation and sound effects, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), Spanish & French (DD 3.0), subtitles: Spanish, Close Captioned


So here's the story - when a middle-aged Russian immigrant named Misha (played by Tony Shalhoub) is hired as a janitor at a local university science department, he discovers a surprise in the building's basement - a parrot that talks. And we're not talking just repeating people's words - this bird is fully intelligent, aware and conversational here. But the little creature has been kept in the darkness of the basement, and poorly fed, for years, so he's more than a little shy. Misha overhears him singing to himself quietly one evening, and decides to introduce himself. Before long, Misha is able to draw the little guy out, and discovers a kindred spirit and friend - another lonely soul like himself.

Paulie, as the bird's name turns out to be, has quite a life's story to tell. As a young hatchling, he belonged to a pretty young girl named Marie (played by Hallie Kate Eisenberg - that trash-talking cutie from the Pepsi spots). Marie had a problem learning to speak, and so a lot of effort was made to teach her how. Naturally, since Paulie was ever present, he picked up the habit, and soon was helping Marie learn new words. But her father didn't quite see the benefit of having a parrot as a best friend (how many parents have worried over an imaginary friend?), and he sold Paulie to a local pawn shop. Soon the little creature gets mixed up with a rogue's gallery of characters, including the pawn shop owner (played by Buddy Hackett), a swindler (Jay Mohr, who also gives voice to Paulie), an East L.A. crooner (Cheech Marin), and a sweet elderly woman (Gena Rowlands) who gives Paulie hope of being reunited with Marie. Paulie's search for his lost friend, and his tangle with a particularly selfish scientist, who is interested in Paulie only for his ability to talk, create plenty of drama.

Paulie is just one of those movies that really takes you by surprise. On its surface, it could easily have been just another silly talking animal movie. So few good ones have been done - in fact, only Babe comes to mind. But this movie really sneaks up on you, if you give it a chance. Like Babe, this film manages to balance humor and touching moments, with the harsh cruelties that life can sometimes present. It even manages to throw in a few life lessons along the way - this is as much fairy tale and parable as anything else (you definitely get some morals to this story). And, also like Babe, this film has some really terrific performances by the ensemble supporting cast. Gena Rowlands is wonderful as a widow who finds new reason to live in Paulie's quest. And I'll say it now - there has simply never been a performance by Tony Shalhoub that I haven't liked. He's just terrific here. Paulie is ultimately, I think, a film about loneliness and the search for kindred spirits in life. And surprise - it just works.

As DVD's go, DreamWorks has delivered yet another fine disc. The anamorphic widescreen picture quality is excellent - full of color and vibrancy. If you prefer it, a full frame picture is also provided, and the quality is equally good. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio sparkles with life, full of great ambience and fun little surround touches. This is a very nice mix. And the while the extras here aren't plentiful, they're perfectly adequate. You get a trailer of excellent quality, production notes, and biographies of the cast and crew. Best of all are the menu screens - always a treat on DreamWorks discs. They're just a blast here, with Paulie heckling you constantly, and reacting to characters that appear on screen behind him. When you switch menu pages, or move from page to page in the scene selection menu, you get terrific little transition animations - Paulie flies past, or spins around, all the while trash talking. Every transition is unique, and every selection you make with your remote is a breeze. This is just great fun. I wish everyone spent this much time on the quality of their interactive menus on DVD - this is a sorely underlooked aspect of most discs, and DreamWorks has definitely set the standard.

Bottom line

Paulie is just a great movie to get the whole family together for. There's something here for kids of all ages. I really enjoyed it... and I never thought I'd say that about a chatterbox parrot movie. No, it's not on the same level as Babe, but it's a nice little gem in and of itself. And the disc delivers plenty of quality. If you're interested, don't hesitate even for a moment to pick it up. And if you have kids, absolutely don't miss it.

Bill Hunt

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