Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is the latest family film coming out locally, and the only family option in the theatrical market for the next month. Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile tells the story of a young boy (Winslow Fegley) who has trouble adjusting to his new life in New York City until he meets a singing crocodile named Lyle in his attic. Shawn Mendes provides the singing voice of Lyle, who cannot communicate except by song, and many of the original songs were written in part by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who worked together on The Greatest Showman’s music.
The film’s primary audience, very young kids, will likely enjoy this film; however, based on the tiny sample size of the three children at my screening, it won’t hold their attention for the whole run time. The catchy songs and fun dance sequences (Shannon Holtzapffel and Eboni Nichols are credited as choreographers) largely work. Mendes’s boyish, thin voice seems strange coming from the CGI crocodile, but that is more due to Lyle, Lyle Crocodile’s absurd premise rather than anything the performer could control.
Where Lyle, Lyle Crocodile fails most is its character development. Great family films have memorable characters with full arcs, and there’s so much that is rushed about the young boy’s emotional journey. One interaction with a singing crocodile seems to solve all his problems. Lyle has the same infectious effect on the boy’s mother (Constance Wu) and father (Scoot McNairy) too.
Left out of any kind of arc is Lyle’s “owner,” Hector P. Valenti (Javier Bardem), a showbiz hopeful who hopes to profit off of Lyle’s voice; Hector begins the film as he ends it, and a good story and a better film would do more with that character, played by a great, under-utilized actor.
The catchy songs, which get recycled a couple times by the end, are Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile’s central draw, and in that respect, the movie is a limited success – good enough to entertain the toddlers, but not worth recommending beyond its intended audience.