Reviewed by Paul Gibbs
How do you tell that a musical made for children is working? When your three year old is literally jumping our of his seat and dancing with every song, it’s a pretty good indicator. And that’s exactly what happened when I took my kids to the press screening of Lyle, Lyle Crocodile , the new live-action/CG hybrid musical with songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul of The Greatest Showman fame.
The story follows an unusual crocodile named Lyle (obviously) who can sing. I had far less trouble accepting that Lyle could sing than I did that nobody ever seemed to get confused on the difference between crocodiles and alligators. Of course a talking animal in a movie is going to meet either someone who wants to get rich off them, and/or a child who becomes the animal’s best friend. Lyle meets the first in the form of Hector P. Valenti, a struggling entertainer played wonderfully by Javier Bardem. He meets the second in the form of Josh Primm, a young boy played by Winslow Fegley. There is also obviously going to be an inexplicably mean person, who in the case come in the form of Bret Gelman as Mr. Grumps, a neighbor in the Primm’s apartment building who wants them out and suspects they’re hiding something.
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile follows the conventions and formulas of kid and animal movies, but does so with charm and sincerity, and will keep kids entertained every step of the way. Adults may not be as completely taken with it, but they’re not likely to be squirming in their seats waiting for it to end, either. I found it to be a cute and enjoyable film with infectious enthusiasm, especially when Bardem was onscreen. The songs (mostly performed by Shawn Mendes as Lyle) are fun, even if not all of them are especially memorable. The supporting cast, which includes Constance Wu and Scoot McNairy, is solid.
If you approach Lyle, Lyle Crocodile exactly for what it is, you’re likely to enjoy yourself. And you’ll enjoy if more if you take a kid or two to dance in the aisles. And if there are any Mr. Grumps in the audience who don’t like that, they’re at the wrong movie.