In reality, there were only two ways Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile (2022) could go; incredibly heartfelt entertainment, or so bad it’s funny. For me, it’s the former. I found so much charm and joy in watching this film, as it is clearly a musical throwback to films like Harry and the Hendersons (1987) or Beethoven (1992). The plot is predictable, but it’s the scenes and the performances that make this movie a family-friendly good time. Nonetheless, I would argue that there is some solid filmmaking to be found here, and the CG looks pretty good as well.
The Primm family has moved to New York, and Josh (Winslow Fegley) is struggling to adjust. He is afraid of everything, which only escalates when he first discovers the crocodile in the attic. Soon, he learns that Lyle (Shawn Mendes) has a talent for singing, and the two become quite close – but not everyone is accepting of a pet crocodile.
The film doesn’t truly open with Josh, but rather with Hector P. Valenti (Javier Bardem) and a long tracking shot of him working his way through the backstage of an America’s got talent-type showcase. We learn that he’s been trying to make it big, but he is always coming up short. He discovers a baby crocodile in the back of a pet store singing. When things don’t work out, he leaves Lyle in the attic of his home – until Josh and the Primms find him just over a year later. This is an element of the film that I really enjoyed because it doesn’t paint Hector as a villain or some egomaniacal tyrant. He has dreams, and he doesn’t always put others’ feelings in perspective while pursuing those dreams.
The initial scenes with Lyle and Hector are quite enjoyable, the best musical moment in the film comes with the bonding of Lyle and Mrs. Primm (Constance Wu). Their singing and dancing is full of sheer joy and fun. Lyle is able to bring the best out of people. It takes a bit longer for Mr. Primm (Scoot McNairy), but Lyle’s ability to read people is quite impressive. It’s in this that I’m reminded of those older movies where the new pet or mythical creature is able to bring the family back together. Usually, there is a resistant father figure, but Lyle doesn’t waste too much time with that. Instead, most of the conflict comes from the downstairs neighbor – Mr. Grumps (Brett Gelman) – but even that is a bit mild.
The film has solid editing and cinematography, and for the most part, the writing is solid. However, there are a few story threads that feel underdeveloped, or maybe the result of editing for a smaller runtime. Despite that, with the lead being on the young Winslow Fegley – who gives a very good performance, this film works quite well. Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile earns the Not – Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.