Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile Review: Javier Bardem props up a half-hearted attempt at heartwarming musical-comedy
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile follows the blueprint for a heart-warming Disney-esque musical comedy in almost every aspect of its presentation and often to a crippling extent
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile tells the story of a rather timid crocodile with a giant heart, who is unable to talk but can express his emotions by belting out soulful songs. Throughout the course of the film, we see many well-wishers of the lovable reptile try to help him overcome his shyness and make him sing in front of a larger audience. And as we see him struggle to overcome stage fright, we develop empathy for Lyle and understand that much like the film, maybe he should not have been pushed on stage, in front of a larger audience so hastily.
Director: Will Speck, Josh Gordon
Cast: Javier Bardem, Shawn Mendes, Winslow Fegley, Constance Wu, Scoot McNairy, and Brett Gelman
While the central theme of the film is how Lyle finds his voice and courage to go on stage by connecting with people, the film itself fails to connect with us. Through lackluster attempts at comedy, banal performances, and writing that feels like it was made for a focus group, the film clearly misinterprets “children’s film” as an excuse to be insincere. There are a large number of films targeted at a younger audience that still connect to people of all ages because such is the power of storytelling. Great works of art always shatter through formats, genres, and thematic conventions to connect with an audience so it becomes harder to forgive the shortcomings of the film by interpreting its poor presentation for a light-hearted tone meant for younger audiences.
The film follows the blueprint of a heart-warming Disney-esque musical comedy in almost every aspect of its presentation. While that might not be a shortcoming in and of itself, the film leans a bit too heavily on the blueprint and offers nothing beyond the skeletal framework.
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile opens with Javier Bardem bursting onto the scene as a charismatic down-on-luck magician. He discovers a singing crocodile and develops a dual act that could make them both rich. The desperation of a failing artist is complemented by the warmth of a loveable character, and the chemistry between the two characters could have carried the whole film forward but we are robbed of it soon afterward. Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is replete with such potential right until the end of the first act, and then with acute malice, the film punishes you for enjoying its earlier moments. The quality of the film plummets steeply the moment the Primms, a family consisting of a mom, dad, and their young boy, arrive on the screen. Every line delivered by the Primms family sounds like it was written by a focus group checking boxes. The film suffers from one-dimensional characters such as the Primms who tell you what you should feel at every moment through poorly written dialogues.
The strong points of the film include the lively songs peppered throughout the film along with Javier Bardem's charismatic performance. With music composed by Matthew Margeson, the songs sung by Shawn Mendes (the voice of Lyle, the crocodile) come as a welcome respite at crucial story moments.
Like the friendly anthropomorphic crocodile who has a penchant for singing, the film too is pretty harmless. Albeit being half-hearted in its presentation, the film does deliver the kind of family entertainment it sets out to do. While some films are made to hold your attention, some are best enjoyed while you’re in the mood to let your focus wander. With copious amounts of self-awareness, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile adequately satisfies the need for a niche that could only be termed as “background entertainment”