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Paulie Review

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Babe-style kids movie about a bird's adventures.

★★★★★

Old Chinese proverb say: you don't get any films about talking animals and then two come along at once. First this then, just seven days behind it, Doctor Dolittle. This one, a small scale vehicle for a verbose exotic beaky (voiced by Jerry Maguire's Jay Mohr), was never going to have the same adult crossover appeal of Babe. But it's still good natured and agreeable enough.

Paulie kicks off when Russian janitor Misha (Shalhoub) finds the titular bird hidden away in the basement of a research lab where he's been banished for refusing to co-operate with scientist Dr. Reingold (Bruce Davison), Subsequently, the film moves into Citizen Kane-style flashback mode, as the feathered one describes his odyssey from suburban pet - in the charge of five-year-old Marie (Hallie Kate Eisenberg) - to caged prisoner; along the way, he hooks up with eccentric traveller Ivy (the ever excellent Rowlands), overcomes his fear of flying and becomes involved in credit card theft with minor hood Benny (Mohr in physical form), all the while seeking to reunite with Marie.

It's all cute, non pretentious, if unremarkable, fare. There are some fun set pieces (the troupe of performing birds run by Cheech Marin is a delight), the occasional laugh-inducing moment (Paulie cheering on his relatives while watching Hitchcock's The Birds on television), and the eponymous star - a mixture of trained birds and animatronic puppets - is well realised.

Yet, for all the (hit and miss) wisecracking, there is an old-fashioned feel about the whole thing, marred by over-moralising, too much talk (especially for tots) and too few surprises to hold the attention.

There is a bland quality to the storytelling with little of the drama, comedy or sentiment really taking off.