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Lyle, Lyle Crocodile really sings: Movie Review

Photo: Sony Pictures
Photo: Sony Pictures

Have you ever seen a crocodile rock? It plays out as silly as it sounds, but Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, based on the children’s book of the same name, has been reimagined as a big-screen family musical filled with catchy tunes that’s easy to have fun with.

Loosely based on the children’s book of the same name, this expanded story tells of a new family moving into their townhouse in New York City, including 10-year-old Josh Primm (Winslow Fegley), who discovers they have an unusual upstairs neighbour: a friendly, singing, scarf-wearing crocodile (voiced by pop star Shawn Mendes).

Thank goodness that Lyle is friendly, and while he can’t talk, boy can he sing! The rest of the story is filled with short episodic scenes where Lyle learns to overcome his stage fright and he helps the Primm family bond closer together.

Not every part of this live-action family flick works: most of the action between Josh and his parents are pedantic and predictable. And the usual antics of the main boy being an outcast at school awkwardly finding his way are only vaguely humorous from second hand embarrassment.

The good news is enough of the movie is spent with Josh and Lyle together forging their friendship across New York City. Fegley’s performance is well grounded and he plays incredibly well opposite a CGI crocodile. This time spent with Josh and Lyle is the real highlight of the movie, as are the moments when Lyle (and therefore, the voice of Shawn Mendes) sings.

Everyone else is the adult cast is clearly having a lot of fun selling the wholesome premise: Javier Bardem is a singing magician who sings and dances with gusto, while Constance Wu and Scoot McNairy are wonderfully fun as Josh’s parents.

Lyle’s soundtrack and songs are written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (best known as songwriters of The Greatest Showman and Dear Evan Hansen), who bring their usually catchy tunes and shallow, poppy lyrics. Their movie soundtracks are designed to get infuriatingly stuck in your head, and in that respect they succeed. But they lack a lot of the nuance and heart of truly great family musicals.

Like I said, this cute story of Josh and his new pet Lyle redefines “Crocodile Rock” in the most entertaining way possible. It may do much for adults alone or mega-musical fans, but it’s still great all-ages fun for the Thanksgiving weekend.

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile

6 out of 10

G, 1hr 46mins. Family Musical.

Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon.

Starring Winslow Fegley, Javier Bardem, Constance Wu, Scoot McNairy and Shawn Mendes.

Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, 5 Drive-In, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.