Set in New York City, Hector (Javier Bardem) is a talented singer and magician trying to make it big. When a recent performance fails before a set of judges, Hector decides it’s time to change his act. He makes a trip to the local exotic pet store to find something cute that can be trained to perform. Out of the blue, Hector discovers a baby crocodile, unlike anything he’s ever seen. Not only is this baby crocodile cute, but Hector finds he can sing. Hector gives him the name Lyle (Shawn Mendes) and begins coaching him further for the stage.
While everything is beginning to look promising, there is just one issue- Lyle cannot perform in front of a big crowd and gets stage fright. Unable to keep ahead of the bills, Hector must earn money by other means, leaving Lyle all to himself. After many months pass by, Mr Primm (Scoot McNairy), Mrs Primm (Constance Wu) and their son Josh (Winslow Fegley) move into Hector’s house, seeking a new start. For Josh, moving to the city is an absolute nightmare. Josh often stresses and carries many fears, which can lead to panic attacks. After the family moves in, it’s not long until Josh discovers that a singing Crocodile is among them. While Josh gets to know his new crocodile friend, The Primm’s next-door neighbour, Mr Grumps (Brett Gelman), threatens their friendship with his plans to benefit himself and his pet cat.
For those unfamiliar, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is based on a popular children’s book about a crocodile living in New York City. Fans of the artist Shawn Mendes will be pleased but somewhat disappointed here. I say this because Lyle can only sing as a character, meaning the film naturally includes various musical numbers at random moments. However, there is no spoken dialogue from the artist himself, which I instantly found surprising and disappointing. Additionally, the musical numbers felt forced as they appeared randomly and unexpectedly, and the songs did not necessarily match the scenes.
Actor Javier Bardem is chewing up the big screen as Hector in this film, bringing joy and an energy to the screen that is always exciting and fun. As for the Primm family, I found it way harder to support and engage with them, mainly because they are sadly somewhat filled with nonsense. Winslow Fegley is great as Josh, and his character has some positive messages that younger audiences would easily relate to.
Editing choices here are baffling and questionable. Many scenes end abruptly and feel incomplete, as if additional footage was left on the cutting room floor. Some moments end so abruptly that viewers will find themselves trying to keep up and question how the last scene ended. Multiple times I found myself getting slightly annoyed as a scene would end and move on as I would think to myself, “Hang on, we weren’t done there”. One example of this is when Mrs Primm sees Lyle for the first time and freaks out before the film cuts to her and Josh walking down the street, and Mrs Primm is now calm. In short, the final cut of this film feels incomplete, rushed and poorly paced.
As for animation, Lyle himself looks excellent. However, the mouth and wording don’t seem quite right whenever Lyle sings. I also found the voice and talent of Shawn Mendes unfitting for this animated character. The film’s ending feels unrewarding as the characters end up being lucky rather than delivering something more rewarding and touching. If you’re seeking a comedy, sure, there are a couple of moments that may earn a faint giggle or two, but sadly, there are not significant moments that are highly outrageous or witty (even for a younger audience).
Overall, while based on a popular children’s book, I’m saddened to say I don’t have much to sing about when it comes to this film. After a solid and exciting introduction, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile contains some briefly fun moments, mainly from the energetic performances by Javier Bardem and a few popular, well-known tracks from music artist Shawn Mendes. However, fans will be disappointed to find that Shawn Mendes doesn’t even speak a word. Thankfully there are some positive and significant themes here for young audiences, such as the topic of fear which was welcome. In saying that, though, the leading character’s success mainly comes from him being lucky rather than displaying something more substantial and touching. The editing choices between scenes are frustrating and baffling, indicating that more footage must have been left on the cutting room floor. These editing choices make the film feel less snappy and jawesome than I hoped for.