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Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile: a valiant effort at being heartwarming – Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: There exists something of a misconception that children’s films are meant for children only. Truth is, adults too can find enjoyment and immense meaning from them.
After all, everyone started off as a bright-eyed kid and a return to innocence is a relieving experience for folks in the cynical adult world. However, children’s films tend to have the most outlandish plots, so it’s best that you leave your sense of logic at home.
That is certainly the case with “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile”, a musical comedy released in theatres just this month.
Based on a 1965 children’s book of the same name, the film is one that truly requires a suspension of disbelief.
With the titular character being a scarf-wearing, bipedal crocodile who communicates through crooning, there really is no point overthinking things here.
So, with logic left at the door, what’s this fantastical story about? The tale begins in New York City and follows a faltering magician, Hector P Valenti (Javier Bardem), who chances upon, then promptly adopts the singing reptile.
Naming the crocodile Lyle (Shawn Mendes), Valenti attempts to present Lyle’s talents to the world, but the crocodile suffers stage fright and cannot sing.
With little choice, Valenti leaves Lyle home alone while he recoups his losses elsewhere, during which time their home is bought over by the Primm family.
Mr and Mrs Primm (Scoot McNairy and Constance Wu) are caring parents to their young but aloof son, Josh (Winslow Fegley), who is not pleased with their move to the Big Apple.
It is he, however, who will hear singing coming from the attic in the dead of night, which leads him to discover the cold-blooded housemate living upstairs.
Of course, the usual shenanigans ensue, nothing which you haven’t seen before in films of this particular genre.
However, it must be said that unlike the truly excellent “Paddington 2”, this film is likely to appeal to children far more than adults.
Why the comparison to the quintessentially British bear? Well, only because “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” shares quite a number of similarities to him.
For one, you have the adorable anthropomorphic character, a family with a sympathetic mother and an outwardly stuffy father, an angry neighbour and a stint behind bars.
However, while “Paddington 2” has a developed and well-written story with character growth, “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” seems intent on being flashy more than anything.
Songs are aplenty, with Mendes’ recognisable vocals likely causing preteen girls to swoon in the cinema. The songs he sings are a good listen too, especially if you are fond of the current genre of pop.
Now, Lyle is animated perfection; it’s hard to imagine how the animators could make a normally fearsome predator into an adorable artist.
Yet, the fact that he is unable to speak except through song does undermine his character a little, as he has little means of expressing himself in non-musical ways.
Paddington Bear certainly didn’t have this issue, given how he was a soft-spoken and gentle soul who could express his thoughts easily.
Of course, this isn’t any fault of directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon; the book version of Lyle couldn’t speak either. That said, this was an issue of adaptation that unfortunately is hard to miss and drags the film down a little.
The film does seem a little long for its simplistic story, with some roadblocks put up by the plot, possibly to pad out the runtime.

While flawed, the film has its high moments too. Javier Bardem, a capable actor as always, puts in a great performance as the somewhat morally questionable Valenti.
It’s rather amazing to see him in action, especially when you know him from his terrifying role as a serial killer in 2007’s “No Country for Old Men”. He could have easily played his eccentric character as a comedic caricature, but he presents himself with surprising amounts of complexity. While a generally well-meaning person, his foolishness and big risks often leave him desperate, causing him to act in morally dubious ways.
The family dynamic of the Primms is also a nice touch, with them feeling like an actual family rather than a bunch of actors pretending to be one.
At its core, it’s likely the creators had an idea of what they wanted to make with “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.” However, they didn’t really stick the landing, though this will likely have little impact on the kids watching.
“Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” is currently playing in theatres nationwide.
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