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"Paulie" A Must For Any Bird Lover's Film Collection

This 1998 movie about a blue-crowned conure stands the test of time.

Amanda Lafond

Paulie was released in 1998.

It’s hard for me not to get misty-eyed thinking about Paulie. This 1998 film about a talking blue-crowned conure and his journey to find his owner hits very close to home for me. Like Paulie’s owner, Marie, I was given a bird at a very young age. Twenty years later, I still have that cockatiel, named Pepper. Watching Marie and Paulie together is always going to feel a little like watching myself and Pepper together. But though I may view the film through a nostalgic lens, Paulie is a solid film that should be in any bird lover’s collection.

Paulie becomes separated from his young owner and travels across the nation with the help of several individuals to reach her. Each person he meets teaches Paulie something new or affects him in some way. These human actors all give great performances, especially Tony Shalhoub, who plays an immigrant from Russia that has just gotten a job as a janitor at an animal research facility, where Paulie has been held for many years. His character grounds the movie and is the one whom Paulie is telling his tale. While it’s often easy for these types of nested narratives to feel clunky or necessary, Paulie does it beautifully.

Paulie himself narrates the movie, with dialogue that is at times humorous and at other times heartbreaking. This is not only an adventurous journey, it’s an emotional one. With great characters and a story that hits all the right sentimental beats, it’s impossible not to cheer on this snarky conure.

Of course, you can’t bring up Paulie without mention the fantastic performance of the animal thespians. The title bird is portrayed by fourteen different blue-crowned conures throughout the movie. These avian actors are up to the task of bringing Paulie to life and display plenty of antics and emotions. However, some scenes were too dangerous for the birds to complete. For this, filmmakers called on Stan Winston Studios to create an animatronic parrot. This creation was extremely well done, and almost indistinguishable from its real-life counterparts. The animatronic scenes only comprised about 5 percent of the film’s running time. This reliance on actual birds for the role lends the film much more believability than machines or computer animation could have provided.

What My Bird Thought
Sometimes not even real birds are enough to hold my cockatiel Pepper’s attention. As I often do, I watched this with my cockatiel friend. Aside from a few confused looks at some onscreen squawks, Pepper was far more interested in chewing the keys off my keyboard. But while the greatness of this film might be lost on feathered friends who can’t sit still, humans are sure to love it. Bird lovers may appreciate it more, but you don’t have to be owned by a parrot to come away from Paulie with a smile. In fact, showing this movie to non-bird folks might help them understand, even a little, why we grow so attached to our avian buddies. I’d say Pepper and I give the film two big zygodactyl digits up!

Do you love Paulie? Let us know in the comments! 

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Posted: December 3, 2014, 1:00 p.m. PDT

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"Paulie" A Must For Any Bird Lover's Film Collection

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Reader Comments
i have seen a movie few years ago. I have a conure, Oliver, I got him when he was a baby. The story sounds similar, but fortunately I didn' have to give him up.He's 3 years old now, very smart, talks a lot, he loves watching movies with me, like Paulie. Every time I watched this movie never made it without crying. Everybody must see this movie, birdlover or not.
Marianna, Concord, CA
Posted: 3/28/2015 1:16:03 PM
I absolutely, love Paulie. Some of the scenes are so sad. It's one of those movies that shows to what great lengths an animal would go just to be with its owner.
Cecilia, Brooklyn, NY
Posted: 3/28/2015 7:49:26 AM
Oh yes, I've always loved this movie. I can't remember how many times I watched it. But, since my blue crown passed away, I haven't seen it. Maybe one day I will sit down and watch it again with a box of tissues and my beloved yellow collared macaw by my side.
Jane & Chyna, Boyne City, MI
Posted: 12/12/2014 1:54:03 PM
Paula is a great movie. I cannot tell you how many times we watched it, both in VHS and later in DVD format. I have several parrots who own me, most of whom are rescues, and where none of them have been with me as long as I would have liked, I have had birds in my life since I was very young, and I have tried to convince my older children to watch movies such as Paulie... to get them to understand my love for parrots. Maybe one day they will understand.
Paula, Entrelacs, QC
Posted: 12/9/2014 8:51:52 PM
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