Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile (2022) Review

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Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile
IMDB: LINK
Director(s): Josh Gordon, Will Speck
Actor(s): Javier Bardem, Constance Wu, Scoot McNairy
Running Time: 106 min
CGM Editors Choice

As far as famous animated animals I grew up reading about, Winnie the Pooh, Paddington and Curious George typically come to mind. Recently, I asked my friends and family if they knew about “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” or the first book in the series, “The House on East 88th Street.” They were oblivious to the 1960’s children’s books; even I didn’t know about this best-selling book series by Bernard Weber. The film made me wish I had read it as a child because of the amazing energy of Lyle (Shawn Mendes) and the zany additional cast of characters which surrounded him. 

From the songwriters of The Greatest Showman, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile took some modern liberties to spice up its source material. The film began when young Lyle was initially bought in a random pet shop by magician/showman, Hector P. Valenti (Javier Bardem). He heard Lyle singing in the back of the shop for the first time. Hector had hopes that a singing crocodile would help make his act more famous since he was a simple performer/magician. When things didn’t go the way Hector wanted, he left Lyle in his apartment alone for months. 

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After many months, the apartment went up for sale and a new family, the Primms, moved in. Mr. and Mrs. Primm’s (Constance Wu and Scoot McNairy) son, Josh (Winslow Fegley) eventually found out there was a singing/dancing crocodile named Lyle hidden in their brownstone home attic. While the Primms tried to adjust living with Lyle, their landlord, Mr. Grumps (Brett Gelman) kept his watchful eyes and ears open at the Primms’ apartment—looking for a legal reason to get rid of them. 

While the plot seemed predictable at the beginning, that the Primms would somehow learn to live somewhat peacefully with this singing crocodile. The strengths were in making me care about the relationship of Lyle, along with everyone else when the story took its turn for the worst.  

“From the songwriters of The Greatest Showman, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile took some modern liberties to spice up its source material.”

By the middle to last act, I saw many scenes where Lyle had emotionally connected with Hector and the Primms through their songs (or other activities). I loved how almost every single character in Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile was broken in some way—seems kind of dark for a children’s musical, right?  

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And this was where I found more depth in this film. The movie remained a hopeful, wacky adventure filled with various music numbers. But it didn’t shy away from focusing on the emotional healing that each of the characters had to go through—with their own personal issues addressed throughout the film. 

Speaking on its wackiness, the film used CGI for Lyle and Mr. Grumps’ house cat, Loretta. I thought it would be jarring to see a singing, dancing animated crocodile blended with real-life environments. Surprisingly, it was very fluid with the proper lighting/shading, and I think the details to Lyle’s shimmering emerald eyes really helped to add to the human connectedness with me.  

“I loved how almost every single character in Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile was broken in some way—seems kind of dark for a children’s musical, right?”

The CGI was a little bit dodgy with the cat physics of Loretta whenever she served as the comic relief—such as dancing on two feet or taking a number two in her litterbox. For Lyle, I would say there were a couple of moments when Bardem’s character had to grab and hold the young Lyle, and it looked like he was grabbing air. Technically, he was not grabbing a real-life baby crocodile, but the weight of him holding Lyle was a bit off-putting.  

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Some major moments that fell short for me in Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile were specifically in a scene or two where Josh and Lyle were alone on-screen together. The issue was that Lyle was not a talking crocodile, he was a singing crocodile. It was sort of like how Bumblebee communicates using the radio in the Transformers movies—the main difference was Lyle sung original songs to convey his feelings to the other characters.  

Since Lyle could not converse regularly with Josh, I felt like it was tough for Fegley to carry on a conversation with not only a character who can’t talk, but a CGI one at that. I felt Fegley’s performance was not as natural as some of the other actors. However, it became less apparent as soon as the singing and dancing ensued—or when more actors joined Fegley. 

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile was a delightful tale of healing emotional scars for most ages.”

In terms of the catchiness of the songs, I thought “Look At Us Now” stuck with me the most. In all its renditions, they were tear-jerking and hit me in the feels that I did not expect. I believe “Look At Us Now” could be in a similar realm as Disney’s “Let It Go” from Frozen or “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Encanto.  

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Of course, Mendes’ voice shone spectacularly with all of his musical moments, and dear lord, he could hit some very high notes! The singing and dancing from Bardem were also a great standout spectacle, especially since this was a nice change from him being a sadistic James Bond villain. I thought Bardem’s chemistry with Lyle was the best, right next to Wu and her dancing and singing skills.  

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile was a delightful tale of healing emotional scars for most ages. I found the attention to creating the heavy emotional moments were well thought out. The dialogue between certain characters really rocked me emotionally—even more so, the lyrics that Lyle sung in the sadder scenes. This film took me on an emotional ride where I did not know where it was going, but I am very glad I rode it! 

Final Thoughts

REVIEW SCORE

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