In Will Speck and Josh Gordan’s Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile (based on the Bernard Waber book of the same name) the plot revolves around the friendship between a boy Josh (Winslow Fegley), and a crocodile, Lyle (Shawn Mendes), who sang but could not speak. I admired how, in Will Speck and Josh Gordan’s Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile sang but could not speak. This was a bold choice but personally, I am glad the directors instead decided to have Lyle express his feelings primarily through facial expressions as it made him seem more tolerable and charming enough for kids and adults. If the filmmakers chose to make Lyle talk, then it would just be another Alvin and the Chipmunks-esque situation where computer-generated versions of anthropomorphic animal characters from popular source materials would make puns, one-liners, and pop culture references to pander to younger audiences. That being said, some criticized Mendes’s choice as Lyle’s voice. For example, critic Steve Pulaski argued that “having teen popstar Shawn Mendes voice the belting crocodile is a move that feels every bit as corporate as a suit-and-tie, closed-door boardroom meeting,” Despite being voiced by a pop singer, however, I felt Lyle was likable in just how naive, eccentric, and lively he behaved; it made him seem more like an actual character and not just obnoxious comic relief whose sole purpose was to sell toys and merchandise.
Another positive of the movie was that the majority of songs that Lyle and the rest of the cast sang in the movie were original songs and not just remixes of popular or iconic songs. This gave the film and its soundtrack an individual identity. While critic Mark Dujsik, claims that the film consists of “a couple of snappy tunes” that would be “enough to keep” children “occupied for a hundred minutes or so”, I felt that the songs served a purpose to the film’s story and character arcs. The film’s opening song titled “Take a Look At Us Now” allowed the film to convey the idea that the magician and Lyle’s previous owner, Hector P. Valenti (Javier Bardem) is satisfied with how he would now become famous after so many failed auditions thanks to Lyle’s singing ability. Another song, “Top of the World”, emphasized the idea that Lyle’s newer owner, Josh, does not need to be afraid of how unpredictable the world is and that he, through Lyle’s inspirational lyrics can gain enough confidence to embrace said unpredictability. In “Rip Up The Recipe”, Josh’s stepmother, Katie (Constance Wu), starts to learn that even though living life without a schedule or just in a disorderly fashion can be dangerous, something new and incredible can come out of it.
As nice as Lyle and his songs were, the film contained some scenes that I felt were rushed, detracting from the movie. For example, when Josh talks to a girl that he likes named Kara Delaney (Lyric Hurd) about his pet crocodile, points out that Josh is weird, and then the scene ends. The exchange between the two of them went too fast and it felt like the actors could not get a minute to breathe and say their lines in a steady and natural manner. Having a normal conversation would give the rest of the audience and myself time to watch the scene and be humored by their dynamic. Another example is when Josh, Hector, and Katie took Lyle for a trip around Manhattan disguised as Florida Gators fans, it also seemed rushed. You would think the filmmakers would want to give time for a crocodile who spent his domesticated life hiding in an attic and sneaking through alleyways and dumpsters to become mesmerized by the wonders of the outdoor world.
Will Speck and Josh Gordan’s Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is a charming family film with a great soundtrack regardless of its occasional pacing issues, meriting a 7/10.