Hollywood has a history of releasing films that have been butchered in the editing room. Now, some of these might have happened because the script couldn’t be salvaged or that test audiences just were not having whatever that piece of cinema was trying to sell. A recent example of this is Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindewald. That movie was Last Jedi-esque experience watching in how off-putting it was. However, it turns out that Warner Bros forced the director to cut the film down to 2 hours so that they could maximize the amount of showings they could have during a day. And it also turns out that the 13 minutes they excised were absolutely essential to the plot (I discovered this when it was recommended that I watch the extended cut, which fixed all the problems of the film). Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile felt exactly the same way.
Lyle stars Javier Bardem as Hector P. Valenti, self proclaimed master of stage and song, who is mediocre at both. After failed attempts to get onto an “America’s Got Talent”-esque show, he finds himself needing to spruce up his act and comes across a singing Crocodile named Lyle (voiced by singer Shawn Mendes). In thinking that all his problems are solved, Hector books several performances for him and his new serpentine serenader and even offers his New York brownstone as collateral for these bookings.
However there is just one problem: Lyle gets stage fright and can’t perform, which forces Hector to go on the road to make some quick cash and leave Lyle to live a lonely life in the attic of the brownstone. Cut to 6 months later and we are introduced to a new family that is new to New York and will be living there: Mrs. Primm (Constance Wu, from Fresh Off the Boat and Crazy Rich Asians), Mr. Primm (Scott McNairy, from Halt and Catch Fire and Batman V Superman), and Josh Primm (Winslow Fegley).
Each member of the Primm family have problems that are making them unhappy to one degree or another. Eventually the uber-anxious Josh discovers Lyle living in the attic and becomes friends with him (because we all need a singing crocodile to overcome our anxiety, apparently) and shenanigans ensue.
As mentioned above, the big problem with the movie is that it feels like an important chunk of the film is missing. Either the script is really dreadful (less likely) or they cut out about 20 minutes in the first act (more likely) that explain WHY the Primms are so unhappy. The studio seemed to think that the audience doesn’t care about the human characters as much and just needed more singing crocodile. And while this may be the case for 8 year old kids, it left me and many others confused and unsatisfied. The third act of the film is actually well executed, but not enough to redeem the rest of the movie.
The acting is generally fine. Constance Wu is still delightful to watch and hearing her sing was a true treat. Bardem commits to playing Hector and is as over the top as we need him to be. McNair is fine as Mr. Primm and as is Fegley as their son.
Another disappointment is the music. When the trailers (which were genuinely awful) boasted the songwriters of Dear Even Hansen and The Greatest Showman (both have soundtracks that elevate their stories), I expected to at least have a few new songs I could add to my playlist. Unfortunately I was wrong: all the songs are forgettable, no matter how well they are sung.
The CG crocodile is actually pretty good, and I have to think that besides paying Wu and Bardem, this is where the majority of their $80 million budget went.
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile wants to be a heartwarming children’s movie in the tradition of Paddington 2. However, it fails miserably by treating its human protagonists as not worth the time it would take to develop them.