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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile: Review

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile Synopsis: When the Primm family moves to New York City, their young son, Josh, struggles to adapt to his new school and friends. All of that changes when he discovers Lyle, a singing crocodile that loves baths, caviar and great music. The two become fast friends, but when evil neighbor Mr. Grumps threatens Lyle's existence, the Primms must band together to show the world that family can come from the most unexpected places.

A shy child befriends a singing crocodile as they both undertake an odyssey to discover their voice in Lyle, Lyle Crocodile. Live-action family films often serve as ominous trap doors for older audiences, with a majority of the genre's output cynically achieving the bare minimum as they mug their way toward greedy paydays (the recent Tom and Jerry and Smurfs films are signifying examples). I understand these films are catered to a young audience. Still, I don't view that as an excuse when several other family films can resonate effectively with audiences of all ages.

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile and its bland marketing campaign certainly didn't inspire much optimism for me, but going to the cineplex can often breed its fair share of welcomed surprises. While far from revelatory, Lyle offers viewers a vibrant and endearingly earnest celebration of positive virtues that audiences of all ages can appreciate.

The creative team here deserves ample praise for injecting an infectious spirit throughout Lyle's runtime. Veteran comedy directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck are adept at creating a light-hearted tone manifested from an array of slapstick comedic gags and cheerful speeches. They also establish a fast-and-furious pace that whisks viewers along with breezy comfortability while effectively side-stepping many of the genre's common contrivances. Forced pop culture references and clumsy attempts at adult-centric humor are thankfully kept to a refreshing minimum.

Screenwriter Will Davies achieves commendable results in his adaptation of the beloved book series. Davies cleverly frames our young protagonist Josh and his new crocodile friend as emotionally introverted mirrors of one another. Josh spends his days consumed by anxiety about the bustling world around him, whereas Lyle remains in hiding due to fears that he won't receive acceptance for who he is. Together, the duo forms a loving relationship molded from their kindred bond and an undying belief in one another.

This concept may be tried and true to family films, but Davies thoughtfully revitalizes his approach. Josh and Lyle's relationship modulates between silent exchanges and grandiose music numbers, with the affectionate songs serving as showstopping moments for the characters to erode their timid personas. The decision to make Lyle non-verbal outside of the musical numbers is ingenious, as it allows the expressive visual effects to relay the character's emotions without the genre's typical heavyhandedness. Shawn Mendes also performs suitably in bringing the film's somewhat generic yet effective musical numbers to life as the voice of Lyle.

In addition, Davies' narrative journey touches upon themes of acceptance, perseverance and self-actualization - concepts that are commonplace to the genre but executed with enough genuine goodwill here. I also enjoyed the screenwriter's inclusion of Hector Valenti, a showman who adopts Lyle as a baby with plans of commodifying his unique talents. Hector's reoccurring appearances throughout the film reinforce the importance of pursuing one's passion for personal expression rather than financial exploitation. Of course, it helps to have Oscar winner Javier Bardem enrich Hector with his versatile skillset. The actor's expressive persona and quick-witted charm morph his con man facade into a well-rounded character.

Don't get me wrong, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is no masterpiece. The film's narrative playbook rehashes quite a few played-out platitudes, and I don't expect many viewers to be surprised by the predictable twist and turns that occur during the runtime. What the film ultimately lacks in innovation, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile more than makes up for in its open-hearted sincerity. I think this is a family film that should excite younger viewers while offering adults a welcomed surprise.

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is now playing in theaters.


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