Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is a thoroughly entertaining, good-hearted and well-made little gem that deserves to be looked upon with an open mind.

Film Review: Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile 

Film Reviews

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile
Directors: Will Speck, Josh Gordon

Eagle Pictures and Hutch Parker Entertainment
In Theaters 10.07

There’s an element of peer pressure and, even more so, a desire to be taken seriously as a discerning commentator on art that comes with being a film critic. On that level, part of me tends to feel sheepish about my lack of cynicism toward mainstream kiddie fare. After seeing Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, I officially refuse to listen to that feeling ever again.  

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is a musical family film that follows the Primm family (Constance Wu, Scoot McNairy,) who relocates to New York City. Pre-teen Josh (Winslow Fegley), finds himself unable to make friends at school and deeply unhappy with his new life until he discovers a singing crocodile named Lyle living in the attic. The two misfits form an instant bond, and the effect that Lyle has on Josh’s spirits soon starts to spread to his parents and others. As is to be expected in this sort of film, the surprising ease with which some accept Lyle is countered by fierce opposition from outside forces, with the Primm’s neighbor, Mr. Grumps (Brett Gelman, Stranger Things) leading the charge. The Primms must work with Lyle’s original owner, multi-hyphenate showman Hector P. Valenti (Javier Bardem), to find a way to keep Lyle and Josh together and make everyone look at this unique new addition to the family with an open mind and heart.

I’m not going to claim that Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is a profound piece of filmmaking, or even a straight out modern classic that is going to work for all audiences. If you’re positive that it’s not for you, I’m not going to say you’re wrong. As someone who simply could not bring myself to sit through Barbarian, I’m all for a critic recognizing when they are the wrong person to talk about  a particular movie, and I’d frankly rather those who gleefully embraced their disdain for Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile and declared it terrible before the film even came out didn’t review it. That being said, there’s a sincere sweetness and joyful creative energy to this movie that makes me feel the need to vigorously proclaim my resounding approval of Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. 

The screenplay by Will Davies (How To Train Your Dragon) has fun with the goofiness of how quickly people just roll with the fact of a singing, anthropomorphic crocodile without getting caught in trying to overmilk it, and directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon (Blades of Glory) make the film soar by never trying to pass it off anything more or less than what it is: an exuberant and unapologetic piece of fun family entertainment that never takes itself too seriously yet refuses to sell itself short.

The ensemble is quite appealing, with Fegley making for an endearing lead, ably supported by energetic and committed performances by Wu and McNairy, who are both clearly enjoying themselves. It should be no surprise that Bardem is a standout, yet I continue to be wonderfully surprised by the way he throws himself into every role with equal gusto, and I’d love to see him emerge as a dark horse nominee for Best Supporting Actor. Shawn Mendes shines as the voice of Lyle, who never speaks, only sings, and the CGI for the character is much better than the trailers may lead you to expect. There’s no denying that the real star here is the music. Justin Paul and Benj Pasek of La La Land and The Greatest Showman fame give us an infectiously fun collection of delightful songs that had my three-year-old nephew, Peter, literally jumping to his feet and dancing (not just bouncing around, literally becoming one with the music and adapting the style of his moves to the mood of the song) with every single number. There’s no getting around that this added to my enjoyment of the film, and yet I refuse to look at that as a side note that makes me merely sentimentally biased toward going easy on the film. There were others around us whose feelings were impacted by the effect it had on Peter, and it’s patently absurd not to consider that this kind of response from a kid that age to a musical adaptation of a children’s book speaks volumes as to whether the movie works as what it’s intended to be. 

Is Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile for everybody? Of course not. Is it a masterpiece that redefines the cinematic experience or the genre of family movies? No. It is, however, a thoroughly entertaining, good hearted and well-made little gem that, like its title character, deserves to be looked upon with an open mind, or at least merely left alone to be enjoyed by those who are open to the possibility of appreciating it. –Patrick Gibbs

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