Though it may not change the world, there’s something special about Lyle that makes a difference.
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile tells the story of the Primm Family (Constance Wu, Scoot McNairy and Winslow Fegley) as they embark on the next chapter of their lives in New York City. Struggling to adapt to their new home, young Josh has his world turned upside down when he meets Lyle (Shawn Mendes), a singing crocodile who lives in his attic. Once owned by failed promoter Hector P. Valenti, Lyle only communicates through song and the two quickly form a bond. However, as their music takes them to new heights, their friendship becomes threatened by Mr. Grump (Brett Gelman), their terrible neighbour who?s determined to keep the peace.
Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile is an endearing film that leans into a sense of play to encourage and empower children. Based on the best-selling children?s book, Lyle is light-hearted and heartwarming fun that is sure to delight its target audience but also entertain parents as well. Frankly, this is one of those films where one can tell that the entire cast are enjoying themselves as they sing and dance through the trials of life. Although some actors feel forced in their performances in children?s films, the crew in Lyle are up for the fun. As Valenti, Bardem wheels around the frame with an over-the-top silliness that we?re unaccustomed to seeing in his usually serious demeanour. At the same time, Wu, McNairy and young Fegley seem more than ready to play with their digital reptile with enthusiasm. Even Gelman seems happy to play his beard-twirling villain, Mr. Grump.
However, while the film may be named after its CGI Croc, the real star of the film is its music. Featuring songs written by the team behind the soundtrack for The Greatest Showman, Lyle has some truly joy-fueled songs. Interestingly, because Lyle doesn?t speak unless through song, Mendes is allowed to do what he does best: perform. As a result, even though Lyle never says a word, the soundtrack is pure pop delight from beginning to end. From tracks such as ?Top of the World? to ?Tearing up the Recipe?, the film picks its moments to infuse the script with sonic energy when needed. (And, it?s worth noting that, because of its pop-ethos, the soundtrack shouldn?t irritate parents on repeat listening as some others might.)
As a parent, I could not help but be drawn to the story, the stories intent on calling people to live up to their potential. In this film, every character?including Lyle himself?struggles with their own flaws and feel trapped in a life that isn?t theirs. Whether it?s moving to a new town, starting a new job or feeling afraid to step out in front of an audience, everyone here feels as though they are lacking something in their lives. Through their experiences with Lyle, they slowly come alive once again, as he reminds them what it means to live their spark. As they sing and dumpster-dive with the big, green guy, each character feels empowered to face their daily challenges. To them, the word ?impossible? begins to melt away and the challenges they face suddenly don?t seem so scary.
As a critic, I admit that I could poke holes in the film?s dodgy CGI and predictable storytelling. However, I also can?t deny that I found myself thoroughly enjoying my time with Lyle and thrilled with how excited my seven-year-old was by his adventures. (Hey Sony, he even pitched me ideas for the sequel on the ride home, if you?re interested.) As such, it?s not that the film doesn?t have its flaws.
It?s that, to be perfectly honest, for 106 minutes of my life, I didn?t care what they were.
Frankly, Lyle is infused with such joy that any of its problems simply melted away for me. Drawn in by the goofiness, I couldn’t help noting that the film is empowering, encouraging and goofy in ways that I hadn’t expected. So, even though?Lyle, Lyle Crocodile?may not be the best children?s film of the last few years, it?s also worth welcoming the big, green guy into your family. Adorable and charming,?Lyle?has enough joy embedded in its soul to keep you entertained.
And, if you bring your kids along, it just might leave you feeling on top of the world tonight.
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is available in theatres on Friday, October 7th, 2022.