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 a literature teacher in Russia, but has been reduced to menial jobs after immigrating to the United States. His curiosity is piqued by a lone parrot, kept in isolation in 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 observing 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 differentiate between fantasy and reality. He deals with this 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 for 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 for them. Stealing from wallets and ATM machines proves 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 cooperate. This being the reason for 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, regardless, happy to get her companion back.The film was not much of a commercial hit. It earned an estimated $26,875,268 at the United States market, only the 69th most successful film of its year, but 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 extremely stereotypical. Other critics pointed to its "labored plotting and heavy-handed morality" as the main faults of the film.
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