Based on the popular children’s books, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile and The House on 88th St., this movie musical hopes to just as successfully win the hearts of children and their parents. While the story is charming enough, I feel that the writing lacks the genuine emotional power needed to win both kids and grownups. As indicated by the children in attendance at the screening, there is little doubt that the little ones will have an enjoyable time with the movie. However, when it comes to the grownups, I believe that they will find the movie tepid and forgettable.
In New York City lives a very special crocodile who goes by the name of Lyle (Shawn Mendes). While locked up in an exotic pet store, Lyle discovers a deep love for music and singing. Now, even though he doesn’t speak, the sweet-hearted croc has literally found that he has a voice and talent for singing. Enter struggling magician Hector P. Valenti (Javier Bardem). The down on his luck entertainer sees a golden opportunity when he discovers Lyle and hopes to train him to become an entertainer. Well, things don’t exactly work out as planned, and Valenti must leave Lyle behind in his brownstone apartment when he needs to hit the road for work.
Much time passes and a kind-hearted family named the Primms (Scoot McNairy, Constance Wu, Winslow Fegley) end up moving into the seemingly abandoned apartment. As it turns out Lyle has remained in the apartments attic and it is only a matter of time before the family discovers him. Initially the Primms fear Lyle, but quickly realize that the sweet and lovable reptile has nothing, but good intentions for them. They decide to allow him to continue living in their household; however, their obnoxious and nosey neighbor Mr. Grumps (Brett Gelman) poses a threat to Lyle and the Primm family when he begins to suspect that they have an additional guest in their apartment.
With a screenplay by William Davies (based on the stories by Bernard Waber), directors William Speck and Josh Gordon have adapted Lyle, Lyle Crocodile into a moderately entertaining and amusing family musical. Judging from the story and its characters, it seems like the film’s producers were hoping to have a winning and successful movie that would lead to an acclaimed franchise like the Paddington movies. While the movie attempts to tug at the heart strings and has some enjoyable musical numbers, it simply lacks the genuine earnestness of Paddingtons, 1 and 2. I also feel that the humor in the movie is a combination of hit or miss jokes and gags, some of which get redundant.
As for the cast, Shawn Mendes gives Lyle a sweet and angelic singing voice, but since the character never speaks, is very limiting when it comes to the character development. Scoot McNairy and Constance Wu both perform suitably, but are also limited by the poor development of their characters. The most earnest and heartfelt performance comes from young actor Winslow Fegley who portrays Lyle’s best friend and biggest fan Josh Primm. The other MVP’s of the cast are Javier Bardem who works his theatrical talents to great effect as Hector Valenti and Brett Gelman who gives an extra sour, but amusing turn as Mr. Grumps.
Though my rating probably seems quite low, I still consider Lyle, Lyle Crocodile a likable movie that the kids will enjoy. And unless one’s children are absolutely desperate to see this movie in the theater, I would wait until it is available for streaming at home. It just isn’t quite the same as the Paddington movies, but then again a lot of movies haven’t been able to reach that zenith.