Based on the classic children’s books from the 1960’s written by Bernard Waber Lyle, Lyle Crocodile tells the story of an unusual reptile. When he was just a cute little hatchling he was found in an exotic pet store by stage performer Hector P. Valenti (Javier Bardem) who was looking for a gimmick to give him his big break. When he hears the sweet singing voice of this small creature he knows he has hit the jackpot. As Lyle grows, and grows, his voice only gets stronger and Hector puts him on the stage in the hopes the cash will start flowing to solve all his problems. Only problem is Lyle, the song and dance crocodile, suffers from some serious stage fright.
Hector, leaving to try and make money to pay off debts temporarily leaves Lyle in the attic of his house which soon becomes the new home of the Primm family when they move to New York City. Mr. Primm (Scoot McNairy) will be teaching at a school while his wife (Constance Wu) wants to try and finally set aside some more time to spend with their son Josh (Winslow Fegley). They’ll be living in the house above their neighbour Mr. Grumps (Brett Gelman) and his beloved cat Loretta. Let’s just say Mr. Grumps is appropriately named.
The big city is a bit overwhelming for Josh, with sirens, crowds, trains and an intimidating new school. But, he soon discovers Lyle up in the attic and once he hears Lyle’s singing (the smooth voice of Shawn Mendes), the crocodile’s only mode of communication, any fear is erased. Their nighttime antics running through the streets of Manhattan and dumpster diving for dinner give Josh new perspective and confidence as their friendship blossoms. However, when Hector returns to bring Lyle yet again into the spotlight, and Mr. Grumps gets tired of the noise, Josh and his reptile friend’s relationship becomes endangered.
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile is directed by duo Josh Gordon and Will Speck, the pair behind comedies Blades of Glory and Office Christmas Party. If you’re taking your kids though, don’t worry, the comedy of this film is decidedly different than those movies. The directors aren’t the only ones taking a slightly different turn, with Javier Bardem, star of such lighthearted fare as No Country for Old Men and Mother!, singing, dancing and being delightfully silly. He’s clearly having a lot of fun and that translates on screen. The film though belongs to young Winslow Fegley and his CGI buddy Lyle whose animation is so charming it’s hard not to fall for the scarf wearing crocodile.
That being said, I’m not sure adults will truly get a lot out of Lyle, Lyle Crocodile.
It has its moments but this is certainly one more geared towards the kiddos, but if they can stand the 1 hour 45 minute run time that isn’t always action packed, the grown ups will get a couple chuckles out of it.
It’s hard not to get lost in the music penned by Oscar winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the composing duo behind La La Land and The Greatest Showman. I dare you not to tap your foot while Lyle and Constance Wu are dancing through the kitchen singing about leaving recipes behind and living life more freely. Yet for all its endearing moments, adults are also likely to find the montage meant to tug on your heartstrings a little saccharine and the ending contrived.
I appreciate a kids film that doesn’t talk down to children, and this one never did. It’s not afraid to recognize the anxieties of childhood and face them head on.
While I won’t get too lost in the weeds (this is a children’s film after all) but when Josh is forced to sign up for wrestling by his father, who then has to prove his own machismo by beating Lyle in a wrestling match, it seems like it’s forcing a bit of an outdated message about masculinity that wasn’t necessary.
Otherwise, the themes here are good, recognizing the power of friendship, family and how it can lead us to overcome our fears and allow us to be brave. It also imparts perhaps the most important life lesson – that cats can be the most devious creatures of all.
Lyle doesn’t reach the heights of Paddington, that bar was pretty high, but it’s not without its appeal. And at the very least, as the little girl behind me said, “Lyle can sing pretty good.”
- Release Date: 10/7/2022