The live action / computer animated movie “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile,” based on Bernard Waber’s beloved children’s books, isn’t the most original story in the world. It has a premise that’s not easy to accept, but it’s a fantasy tale with a whole lot of heart. This sweet, all-ages film is packed with catchy original music, dance numbers, and a singing crocodile who teaches one family about love, facing fears, and being true to yourself.
When the Primm family, including dad (Scoot McNairy) and stepmom (Constance Wu), moves to New York City, their son Josh (Winslow Fegley) struggles to adapt to his new normal. He isn’t fitting in at school and is finding it difficult to make friends. All of that changes when Josh discovers Lyle (voice of Shawn Mendes), a scarf-wearing, singing crocodile, who lives in their attic. Lyle doesn’t talk but can communicate verbally through song, and he loves music. Josh and Lyle become best friends and grow close quickly, especially when the nasty downstairs neighbor Mr. Grumps (Brett Gelman) becomes suspicious of the strange shenanigans going on in the flat above and wants to evict the family. Things get more complicated with Lyle’s original owner, the struggling showman and magician Hector P. Valenti (Javier Bardem), returns after several years and wants to use his reptile friend as a cash cow.
It’s a silly story that requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief, but almost everything about the film is charming. The cast is terrific, and Lyle is animated in an approachable way that makes the fact that he could be a man-eating crocodile a lot less scary. He has a huge personality that’s sunny and infectious. When paired with toe-tapping songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (the duo responsible for the terrific tunes from “Dear Evan Hansen,” “La La Land,” and “The Greatest Showman”), the film becomes a good-natured spectacle that’s hard not to like.
Will Davies’ adapted screenplay updates some of the story to better address modern-day problems and situations (the original book was published in 1965, after all) and doesn’t veer totally off the rails (with the exception of a rapping rattlesnake, I didn’t once groan or roll my eyes). Davies keeps the story simple and easy to follow, even for the youngest moviegoers.
Featuring diverse representation and positive messages about courage, honesty, teamwork, and friendship, “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” is a family-friendly adventure that provides a lot of good-natured fun.
By: Louisa Moore