By Tracy Moore,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Talking bird on a coming-of-age journey with some peril.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Paulie is filled with extremely positive messages about friendship, respect, compassion, valuing the moment, telling others how you feel about them, and the value of simply listening to one's fellow humans. Paulie's story only unravels in the film because Misha believes it has innate value. Paulie listens to Ivy's story about her life traveling with her husband, and later, Ignacio's romantic woes.
Positive Role Models
Paulie is a loyal friend to Marie, and a compassionate guide bird to Ivy. Marie is a loving pet owner. Misha is a kind friend.
Violence & Scariness
A girl falls off a roof and is rescued. A bird is abandoned and trapped in a house. A bird is in agony when his wings are clipped. An ambulance signals the death of a character, though nothing is explicit or scary.
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The movie has a few instances of insulting language, such as when Paulie calls Misha a "mutt monkey," and calls a pet cat a "stupid hairball." A pawn shop owner briefly mutters "Goddammit."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
In one minor scene, patrons at an outdoor bar/taqueria consume beers during a musical performance.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Paulie is a sweet, sensitively handled tale about the bond between a bird and his owner, with some great lessons about friendship, but it does include the death of a caretaker (implied, not shown explicitly or with any scariness), a tearful separation between a child and her pet, and a few other potentially frightening scenes. In one, a girl falls off a roof but is rescued; in another, the bird is abandoned, and later becomes trapped in a house. Additionally, for a portion of the film the bird is an accomplice to theft and robbery, though he learns it is wrong.
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What's the Story?
A janitor, Misha (Tony Shalhoub), discovers a forgotten parrot in the basement of a research lab who not only talks (voiced by Jay Mohr), but understands, and listens. As Misha earns PAULIE's trust, he tells him the story of his long-lost owner, a 5-year-old girl named Marie, his years-long search to reunite with her, and the acquaintances he makes along the way, including Ivy (Gena Rowlands) and Ignacio (Cheech Marin).
Is It Any Good?
Paulie sounds like a recipe for disaster -- a talking parrot, a stuttering kid, and a bird on a very long road trip -- but it actually works. It's a sweet, charming film (featuring some great scenery shots) about a girl, her pet, and the exciting acquaintances he makes in his search to reunite with her that proves far more endearing and less cornball than it has any right to be.
In part, Paulie succeeds because there isn't a single hokey performance from anyone in this terrific cast, not even the bird, who has a natural, understated (if wisecracking) presence. (It's also hard to go wrong with anything involving Gena Rowlands.) Though this isn't a laugh-a-minute sendup, it's a rewarding, nuanced movie about friendship and loss for audiences mature enough to appreciate it. And, hey, on top of that, it's got a talking bird, which kids will love even if the heavier themes fly right over their heads.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about listening. Can you think of other movies you've seen that show the importance of listening to our friends' stories?
Discuss how animals should be treated in a research setting. Is there value in testing things on animals before humans?
Visit the library to learn more about animal training and communicating with different species.
- In theaters: April 17, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: October 24, 2017
- Cast: Bruce Davison, Cheech Marin, Gena Rowlands, Hallie Eisenberg, Jay Mohr, Tony Shalhoub
- Director: John Roberts
- Inclusion Information: Latinx actors, Middle Eastern/North African actors
- Studio: DreamWorks
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Wild Animals
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Last updated: June 2, 2023
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