Directed by Josh Gordon (Office Christmas Party) and Will Speck (The Switch) and based on the popular series of books from Bernard Weber, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile centres around the Primm family who have just moved to New York – a move that not all the family members are all that excited about.
Mr Primm (Scoot McNairy – Argo) initiates the move when he lands a job as a teacher at a prestigious school, although he soon learns that teaching here is not as easy as it was at his last school. Then there is Mrs Primm (Constance Woo – Crazy Rich Asians), who is not so positive about the move but is hoping that it can help her find the right amount of balance between being a celebrity chef and a good step-mother to Josh (Winslow Fegley – Come Play).
But the person impacted the most by the move is Josh. He suffers from severe anxiety and every little noise in the city seems to set off a panic attack. Worse still is that his shyness makes it hard for him to make friends. The only thing that snaps him out of his worries is discovering a singing crocodile named Lyle (voiced by Shawn Mendes) living in the attic.
Soon Josh finds that he has a friend in Lyle but the question is how long will their friendship last as it only seems like a matter of time before Lyle’s actual owner – the all-singing, all-dancing Hector P. Valenti (Javier Bardem – Skyfall) – comes back to claim him or he is seen by the neighbourhood’s chronic law-enforcer Mr Grumps (Brett Gelman – The Other Guys).
There are so many things that come together to make Lyle, Lyle Crocodile feel like such a magical film. First of all is the feeling that surrounds this film. It is hard to explain in any other way but saying as an adult watching this film it transports you back to the family films of the 1980s and 1990s – films like E.T. that not only entertained the entire family but also touched on important topics.
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile touches on stage parenting, anxiety, the fear of being a bad mother and abandonment, yet it never feels like it is preaching. Everything throughout the film happens naturally, but there is no way that you cannot watch this film and not find yourself asking questions about your own life.
That magical feeling is further enhanced by the way that this film is shot. There is little doubt that the film comes from the same creative team as The Greatest Showman because the musical and dance numbers here take you back to that time when Hugh Jackman had everyone absolutely enchanted. Every song lyric here feels like it moves the story along and the songs are so catchy that you will find yourself humming them as you walk away from the cinema – hell, you will probably download the soundtrack the moment you get to the car park.
Above all though there are the performances of the cast. You could forgive Javier Bardem for not bringing his A-Game to this – a family film. But instead Bardem goes all out with a truly memorable performance of a man forced to do cruel things in order to survive. Constance Wu is also amazing throughout the film as she has to mix some truly dramatic soul-searching moments with song and dance. It also becomes apparent that she is not a bad singer either.
Then there is the performance of Winslow Fegley. This kid just gets better and better with every film that he makes. He was great in Nightbooks and stole the show in Come Play, and here he carries the entire film and does it with ease. He is certainly one young actor that is going to become a household name in the future.
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile is one of those special films that can be loved by all members of the family. There is little doubt that kids are going to fall in love with Lyle the first time they catch sight of the singing crocodile on the screen while adults will take a lot more away from the various character’s storylines that play out throughout the film. Be prepared to laugh, be prepared to cry, because this is one film that will take through a whole range of emotions.
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile is currently screening in Phuket and is rated ‘G’.
David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus