[Screen It]


(2022) (Winslow Fegley, voice of Shawn Mendes) (PG)

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Comedy: A family discovers a friendly, singing crocodile living in the attic of their new home.

Josh Primm (WINSLOW FEGLEY) and his parents, Katie (CONSTANCE WU) and Joseph (SCOOT McNAIRY), have just moved into a brownstone in New York City. It initially appears their biggest concern is going to be their unpleasant and angry neighbor, Mr. Grumps (BRETT GELMAN), who's immediately looking for any way to find fault with them and force them out. But then they discover a crocodile living in their attic, left there by the former tenant, longtime struggling showman Hector Valenti (JAVIER BARDEM).

But the reptile is anything but dangerous. In fact, he's quite shy and doesn't want to be discovered, but Josh eventually comes across him and soon learns that Lyle (voice of SHAWN MENDES) is a singing crocodile who stands upright and once seemed destined for fame alongside Hector, but ended up crippled by stage fright. As the family comes to accept their newfound resident -- and he helps bring happiness and confidence to their lives -- they must contend with the possibility that Mr. Grumps will learn about Lyle and try to have him removed.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10

I've been fascinated with alligators and crocodiles ever since I can remember. As I likely never saw a live one in the wild or in captivity in person at a young age, I'm guessing that fascination came from having grown up with one in our house. Considering the previous statement, you'd certainly be in your right to ask how that could be.

Well, it formed the majority of an ashtray, of all things, that my parents brought home from their late 1950s honeymoon in Miami. Featuring a baby gator wrapped around a shell, I recall being obsessed with the scales, teeth, claws, and everything else, and that's carried through to adulthood, including, yes, being a big fan of the late Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin.

Accordingly, I went into our press screening for "Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile" with a certain predisposition toward giving it the benefit of the doubt from the get-go despite having zero familiarity with the source material -- Bernard Waber's "The House on East 88th Street" published two years before my arrival on Earth -- or any subsequent follow-ups, including the direct sequel from which this film borrows its title.

While most crocodilians are generally nasty killing machines by nature, that's not the case with the titular character who not only has a friendly disposition, but also walks upright and has a penchant for belting out songs. In fact, beyond facial expressions, that's his only way of communicating, but only if he's not asked to perform in front of a crowd which is when stage fright kicks in and he literally loses his voice.

That's the case in the film's prologue where aspiring showman, Hector Valenti (Javier Bardem), discovers the gator much like the construction worker in the old Merrie Melodies short, "One Froggy Evening," who comes across a singing frog who belts out "The Michigan Rag."

Just like his cartoon predecessor, Hector immediately sees dollar signs, only to have Lyle do the frog bit and metaphorically croak up on the stage in front of a paying audience. That forces Hector to abandon Lyle in the attic of his New York City brownstone to fend for himself while he goes out to make money.

Eighteen months later, the main story -- directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon from a screenplay by William Davies -- kicks in as the Primm family moves into the very location, much to the chagrin of their aggressively antagonistic neighbor, Mr. Grumps (Brett Gelman), who only has love for his pet cat.

Young Josh (Winslow Fegley) is the first to discover Lyle (singing voice of Shawn Mendes) and, after some brief moments of being unsettled, the two quickly bond, with Lyle helping the boy get over his cautious and reserved nature. Soon, the friendly croc does the same for the rest of the family, first the mom (Constance Wu), and then the dad (Scoot McNairy).

Unsurprisingly, Hector eventually returns and wants to resurrect their singing act, while Mr. Grumps threatens to upset the newfound harmony and happiness in the blended family. After a while, uh, crocodile, you realize this is going to be fairly formulaic while featuring several numbers for Mendes to do his singing thing.

His fans and young kids might eat this up like a hungry crocodilian (yes, there's the obligatory crude humor aimed at the comedy sensibilities of such kid viewers), the special effects creating Lyle look great, and there's nothing wrong with having something predictable yet a bit different (not many films feature singing crocs) for that target audience.

But it doesn't offer much for child-free adults, and thus comes off as a bit mediocre, even for those who grew up and are still fascinated by all things croc and gator related. "Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile" rates as a 5.5 out of 10.

Posted October 7, 2022

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