'Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile' review: Warm and bright family flick lacks a bit of bite


By AGENCY

Based on the children’s book series by Bernard Waber, 'Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile' has plenty of bright moments, but lacks a cohesive, smooth finish. – Photos: Sony Pictures Malaysia

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is indeed a strange beast, both the animal — a city-dwelling croc with the voice of an angel — and the movie, which is also a sort of monstrous hybrid of unexpected tones.

Based on the children’s book series by Bernard Waber, adapted by Will Davies, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck, who are known for more adult comedies like Office Christmas Party, The Switch and Blades Of Glory, and they bring a bit of that ironic sensibility to the film, which is both a blessing and a curse.

It’s clear every adult in the room is in on the joke in the over-the-top Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, including Gordon and Speck, as well as Scoot McNairy and Constace Wu, who play Mr. and Mrs. Primm, the gobsmacked couple who find themselves co-habitating with Lyle in a Manhattan brownstone, after their son Josh (Winslow Fegley) befriends the creature.

A croc and a kid get into a cab (hopefully it isn't driven by a crab).A croc and a kid get into a cab (hopefully it isn't driven by a crab).

The campy tone is underwritten especially by Brett Gelman who gives a bravura comedic turn as their downstairs neighbor and cat enthusiast Mr. Grumps, and especially Javier Bardem, who goes for broke in what can only be described as a tour-de-force performance of tragic clownery playing magician/musician Hector P. Valenti.

The showman originally discovered Lyle singing the salsa classic I Like It Like That in the back of a pet shop, and he has Col. Tom Parker dreams dancing in his head, hoping to make a buck off Lyle’s talent. Bardem, it must be said, is simply mesmerizing.

But the heart of the movie, Fegley, doesn’t seem aware of these winks or nudges, as he delivers a performance of pure pathos as a lonely kid longing for a pet.

After an initial shock, Josh is thrilled to discover Lyle, who has been stowing away in the attic listening to an iPod while Hector is out hitting the boards trying to scare up some cash, and the two bond over several bouts of dumpster diving.

Altogether now! Baby croc doo doo doo doo doo doo...Altogether now! Baby croc doo doo doo doo doo doo...

Most humans are, understandably, terrified when encountering the enormous apex predator wearing a jaunty scarf. But when Lyle opens his jaws, it’s not to chomp on a head, but to let loose his dulcet tones, courtesy of pop star Shawn Mendes. His repertoire includes classic tunes as well as original Broadway-style belters composed by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile goes for a kind of Clifford the Big Red Dog vibe, with the whole fantastical pet in New York City plot, but there’s not enough connective tissue in the writing, which feels choppy and abrupt.

Pasek and Paul’s songs end up having to do much of the emotional heavy lifting, and the rest of the film feels cobbled together from random parts scavenged from other kids’ movies and pop culture ephemera.

Dancing with Constance was a constant for Lyle.Dancing with Constance was a constant for Lyle.

The main conflict is Lyle’s stage fright, which prevents Hector from monetizing his little discovery. A TikTok-like app called Sweep is introduced, seemingly the perfect solution for the stage fright and an apt contemporary reference, but that is swept aside for a hackneyed climax featuring a chase across New York City to perform onstage at an America’s Got Talent-type show called Show Us What You’ve Got so that Lyle can have his Susan Boyle moment. It just all feels rather dated.

In moments, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is a warm and whimsical family adventure comedy, but at other times, it’s a hallucinatory fever dream. Both are fine options, but the purgatory in between these tones is too strange to actually work. But what do I know? The kids and parents at the screening erupted in applause at the end, so apparently, a star has been born. – Review by Katie Walsh/Tribune News Service

Lyle, Lyle Crocodile opens in cinemas nationwide on Dec 1.

Article type: free
User access status:
7 10

Summary:

Warm, whimsical and bright, but lacks a bit of bite

Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

Lyle Lyle Crocodile , family film

   

Next In Entertainment

Razzies retracts nomination of 12-year-old as ‘worst actress’
Guitarist Tom Verlaine, co-founder of punk rock band Television, dies at 73
Actress Sylvia Syms, star of 'Ice Cold In Alex' and 'The Queen', dies at 89
Blackpink’s Lisa set 3 Guinness World Records last year
Academy launches probe after surprise Oscar nod for indie film 'To Leslie'
Hong Kong singer Andy Lau spotted with Malaysian tycoon Vincent Tan in Kepong
Actor Aaron Kwok’s wife Moka Fang sparks pregnancy speculation
Actress Marisa Abela to portray British singer Amy Winehouse in new biopic
Jennifer Lopez explains why she eloped with Ben Affleck in Las Vegas
Malaysian actress Puteri Aishah leaned out of car moving at 100kph for new drama

Others Also Read