As I train my nearly four-year-old daughter to be a proper film critic (or improper like her dad?), I asked her what she thought of the live action adaptation Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. Though she had spent part of the time running around the nearly empty theater while eating candy, she largely paid attention to what was happening on screen. I gave her two options: “Loved it” or “Just liked it,” and she accurately answered the latter.
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is a one-hour and forty-five minute kid’s movie that at times takes itself way too seriously given that it’s about a dancing, singing crocodile who lives in a New York City townhome. Cut out the 30 minutes that are oddly not aimed at small children and this movie, directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck, may have been onto something.
In its best moments, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile has the title character, voiced by Shawn Mendes, serenading his human costars while silly things happen on screen. There is a cranky-looking cat, too, who looks like a fancy, CGI version of Grumpy Cat; the cat adds to the visual entertainment. During the stretches when the directors let loose and allow the film to just be fun and stupid, the movie is certainly stupid but it’s also fun (and ocassionally funny).
But when Lyle isn’t on screen, which is more often than you’d think (like so many adaptations of movies where the title character isn’t human, the directors commit the cardinal sin of not having Lyle be the main character), Lyle, Lyle Crocodile sags tremendously. It’s sort of boring, certainly not as silly as it should be, and held neither my attention nor my daughter’s–at least not consistently.
Thankfully, Oscar winner Javier Bardem is for some reason in this movie and is thankfully fully invested; he’s wild, he’s crazy, he’s eccentric, and he’s fun to watch. He runs energetic circles around the rest of the human cast, which includes Constance Wu, Scoot McNairy, and Winslow Fegley. Fegley, while fine, unfortunately gets to play the same awkward, friendless kid we’ve seen in countless other kid’s movies.
Cut the boring family out and have this be a movie about Lyle the Singing Crocodile and his human weirdo traveling the country, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile would have been something. As is, it sort of, but not entirely, bites.
I think my daughter would agree.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.