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Paulie is a 1998 family film about a sapient parrot. More accurately a blue-crowned conure. The film was directed by John Roberts, previously known for such films as "This Boy's Story"(1992) and "War Of The Buttons" (1994). The main stars were Jay Mohr, Tony Shalhoub, Hallie Kate Eisenberg, Buddy Hackett, Gena Rowlands, Cheech Marin, Tia Texada, Bruce Davison, and Trini Alvarado.
The film starts by featuring Misha Belenkoff (Shalhoub) in his first night as the janitor at an animal testing lab. He used to be literature teacher in Russia. Misha immigrated to the United States and has been reduced to doing menial jobs. His curiosity is picked by a lone parrot, kept in isolation at the basement. He soon realizes that that parrot can do more than mimic sounds. He sings and talks. But only when away from observers. He gets the parrot to speak to him. But Paulie (Mohr) refuses to speak or perform for anyone else.
He eventually gets Paulie talking about his life story. Most of the rest of the narrative is told in flashbacks. His earliest memories find him as the pet of 5-year old Marie Alweather (Eisenberg). Marie is a stutterer. Her worried parents are pressuring Marie to start speaking properly. By onserving the lessons, Paulie learns the meaning of words and how to construct complex sentences. He is then able to help Marie learn without pressure. Her stories about speaking to her parrot, convince her father that Marie is unable to difference between fantasy and reality. He deals with by selling the bird.
The next few years of Paulie's life are not depicted. He eventually finds himself at the pawnshop of the sarcastic Artie (Hackett). The films proceeds to follow Paulie's life under later owners and his efforts to locate Marie. The first such owner is the aging artist Ivy (Rowlands). She teaches him a lot about life and putting things into perspective. But her health eventually takes a turn towards the worst. The next owner is Ignacio (Marin), proud owner of a taco stand, entertainer and owner of trained parrots. Paulie learns to perform for an audience and falls for Lupe (Texada), a female conure. A misadventure lands him at the hands of petty criminal Benny (Mohr) and his girlfriend Ruby (Texada). They teach him the value of money and how to steal them. Stealing from wallets and ATM machines prroves easy. But his first attempt at burglary gets him captured.
He ends up at the institute. Dr. Reingold (Davison) promises to help him. But sees him more as a meal ticket. Paulie stops being so trusting and refuses to co-operate. Which results in his long isolation. Back to the present, Misha decides to help Paulie escape and find Marie. To their surprise, decades have passed. They find an adult Marie (Alvarado). Who is however happy to get her companion back.
The film was not much of a commercial hit. It earned an estimated 26,875,268 dollars at the United States market, only the 69th most successful film of its year. It at least covered its own budget. Critically it performed fairly well. It won a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award for Best Children's Feature Film. Cheech Marin and Trini Alvarado were nominated for ALMA (American Latino Media Arts Award) awards. Marin lost to Antonio Banderas of The Mask of Zorro. Alvarado lost to Jennifer Lopez of Out of Sight. Hallie Kate Eisenberg was nominated for a Young Artist Awards. She lost to Mae Whitman of Hope Floats. The film received mostly positive reviews, praised for its "smart, emotional storytelling" and solid acting. On the other hand, the depictions of scientists "as vicious, clueless, animal-hating monsters" was dismissed as extemely stereotypical. Other critics pointed to its "labored plotting and heavy-handed morality" as the main faults of the film.
- A Boy and His X: A girl and her blue-crowned conure.
- Acrophobic Bird: Both Marie and Ivy spend time trying to teach Paulie to fly. He first has to overcome his fear of heights.
- Amplified Animal Aptitude: Paulie is constantly able to speak, learn new skills and form plans. He is surprised that the other parrots seem unable to do so, including his beloved Lupe.
- Animal Testing: The lab. Though what the tests involve remains unclear.
- Cool Pet: A pet that can help you with your language skills, act as a seeing dog (for Ivy), sing and dance. No wonder Paulie is loved by his various owners.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Misha is played by Monk. Also, Marie is played by the "Pepsi Girl".
- There's also Buddy Hackett as Artie, the owner of the pawn shop where Paulie gets sent.
- Missing Trailer Scene: DreamWorks' Paulie, which was surprisingly somber for a film about a literal talking parrot, was marketed as a zany comedy and most trailers included a scene where the parrot flies next to another parrot and quips, "Saaay, do you realize we're both naked?" Again, it's never said in the movie.
- Another scene heavily run in the trailers had a scientist holding up a card for Paulie and saying "What is this?" Paulie responds "It's a flash card, you idiot!". It wasn't in the actual film.
- Polly Wants a Microphone: Paulie is a talking bird; the catch is that every other parrot in the movie isn't, and most humans have difficulty believing that Paulie is.
- Seldom-Seen Species: The Blue-crowned conure (Aratinga acuticaudata) is native to large parts of South America and popular pets. But they are not that often depicted in fiction. Reportedly: "The most famous fictional Blue-crowned Conure is the title character in the 1998 movie Paulie. The movie used 14 birds to play the role of the talking parrot and caused a surge in the popularity of Blue-crowned Conures as pets."
- She Is All Grown Up: Paulie has trouble realizing that his little Marie has grown into a woman. However this comes as a pleasant surprise to Misha. He is obviously attracted to her.
- Sliding Scale of Animal Communication: Level 4. Paulie can freely talk with people. But seems to be the only member of his species able to do so.
- Talking Animal: Paulie. He is able to speak and think. But remains a pet.
- Talking to Himself: Jay Mohr provides the voice of the titular parrot, as well as playing one of Paulie's owners.
- Tropey Come Home: Played with. Paulie has spend decades trying to locate Marie. But how she spend the missing time is not covered. She just accepts that her pet returned.
- What Could Have Been: Buddy Hackett, who plays Artie in the film, originally auditioned for the voice of Paulie, but he lost to Jay Mohr who impersonated his voice.
- Worthless Foreign Degree: Mentioned above, Belenkoff used to be a literature teacher in Russia, but reduced to a Janitor in the US.