A CGI character teams up with a child and then chaos ensues is a trope we have seen time and time again. Often utilised in cheap films for family franchises like 'The Smurfs' and 'Alvin and the Chipmunks', but since 'Paddington' debuted the approach changed. Now not only was a successful box-office run-on line but critical success could be achieved. In came 'Peter Rabbit' and 'Clifford the Big Red Dog', taking classic children's books and Americanising them for the big screen. Now it's time to add a CGI crocodile to the mix with 'Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile'.
Magician Hector P. Valenti (Javier Bardem, 'Dune', 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales') has been struggling to perfect his act, one day after another failed performance - that is, until he stumbles into a pet shop and finds a singing crocodile. Lyle (Shawn Mendes) is a croc who only sings and together they begin to work on a musical performance, but Lyle chokes and Hector leaves him in his attic while he tries to find work. In the meantime, the Primm family moves to New York and into Hector's abandoned house and get a surprise when they discover Lyle upstairs. Lyle helps the family with his singing with the new challenges they face in a new city, Mrs. Primm (Constance Wu, 'Hustlers', 'Crazy Rich Asians') and trying to be a stepmum to Josh, Mr. Primm (Scoot McNairy, 'A Quiet Place Part II', 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood') tackling his new teaching job, and most importantly Josh (Winslow Fegley, '8-Bit Christmas', 'Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made') and his nerves with starting a new school.
Look, a singing CGI croc played by Shawn Mendes is a wild sentence - but considering that, the film really works. It's not perfect and a lot of things are questionable - for instance, it's never really explained nor questioned why Lyle only sings and never speaks, there is classic product placement and crude humour that doesn't work. The film does struggle to balance its bold premise and heart, but when the two come together it does make for a delightful family film.
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul the songwriting duo behind 'La La Land' and 'The Greatest Showman' are on their A-game here. The songs are very mainstream pop over a more musical style, but paired with Shawn Mendes' vocals the songs really soar. 'Top of the World' is the film's anthem, but 'Rip Up the Recipe' is one of the year's best songs. The songs are the main selling point, especially with Mendes' casting, and they are really catchy and sure to get some airplay over the summer break.
The film does struggle to balance its bold premise and heart, but when the two come together it does make for a delightful family film.
Interestingly enough, while a huge hook is that Lyle can only sing, in the original book (from what I've read), he just simply doesn't speak. The only musical connection the character has is a musical adaption in 1987 for HBO animated in the book style, and from the one clip that I found Lyle doesn't speak nor sing.
The whole cast is truly bringing their best and elevates the material. Bardem and Wu are standouts but child actor Winslow Fegley carries his weight as well. The film shows Josh experiencing a panic attack and for a mainstream family film, even though extremely simple, it felt like a big step in normalising something like that for young kids.
'Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile' takes its wild premise, packs it with a tonne of heart and fun music to deliver an ultimate holiday family movie package. Yes, it's a singing crocodile and that's wild at times, but when the film really works it packs everything you could ask for from a musical family adventure.