Review: ‘Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile’ sings its way into children’s hearts

“Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” is the feature film adaptation of the beloved children’s story of the same name. The live-action/animated musical comedy stars the singing voice of pop star Shawn Mendes as the titular character and Oscar-winner Javier Bardem as the crocodile’s owner.

"Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile" movie poster
"Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile" is a family-friendly movie aimed at children about a singing crocodile. The new release is playing at Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and Sunset Cinema in Jenkins.
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch
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BAXTER — Chances are when Lyle the crocodile takes center stage in a crowded room, people aren’t screaming because of how well he sings or that he even sings.

But the fictitious saltwater croc does grace the silver screen to the likely delight of children in a new family-friendly movie based on the beloved children’s story “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.”

Written by Bernard Waber, the book was first published in 1965 and is the sequel to “The House on East 88th Street,” which was published in 1962. “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” follows the life of Lyle, a city-dwelling crocodile who lives in a Victorian brownstone with the Primm family.

The feature film adaptation of Waber’s work by Sony Pictures follows pretty closely to his book — or at least includes the major beats and basic premise of worlds colliding between the anthropomorphic, and possibly deadly, creature in close quarters with a family with a small child.

If the crooning croc in the movie sounds familiar it is because the lovable, cold-blooded reptile with a heart of gold is voiced by none other than Canadian pop star Shawn Mendes, whose breakout hit “Stitches” reached No. 1 in the U.K. and the Top 10 in the U.S. and Canada.


The PG-rated movie begins in New York City with magician Hector P. Valenti failing to impress TV producers of a show like the reality competition series “America’s Got Talent.” The Spanish actor who plays Valenti is Oscar-winner Javier Bardem of “No Country for Old Men.”

Taking to heart the feedback he receives at his latest failed attempt to impress, Valenti happens across a pet store and looks for something to give his act some sorely-needed “wow” factor.

When the store manager steps away from Valenti for a moment, Valenti hears from a back room of the crowded inner-city pet store a voice singing and he sets out to find the source.

A close-up photo of a baby crocodile, with its sharp "puppy" teeth.
A close-up photo of a baby crocodile, with its sharp "puppy" teeth.
Contributed / David Clode via

To his amazement, a baby crocodile is singing its little heart out inside a cage and from the faded word “crocodile” nearby, Valenti derives the name “Lyle” for the undeniably cute croc.

How Lyle is able to sing is never fully explained in the movie, which runs an hour and 45 minutes and zips along without testing children with short attention spans.

A film about a singing crocodile requires a suspension of disbelief to begin with, so moviegoers expecting a National Geographic-like documentary about crocs will naturally be disappointed.

Valenti takes his discovery home from the pet shop and trains Lyle to become part of Valenti’s act and the scaly adopted son goes gamely along with the song-and-dance routine.

“Living” is a new drama starring English actor Bill Nighy a veteran civil servant who receives a terminal diagnosis from his doctor and decides to live it up with the help of a plucky young woman.

And as far as singing and dancing crocodiles go, the CGI in “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” required to bring the imaginative Lyle to life was seamless in the live-action/computer-animated comedy.


The makers of the movie even managed to make baby Lyle especially adorable with expressive, puppy dog eyes — so much so that moviegoers, especially children, would love to have one.

Valenti is banking on his belief that the pair will become rich once people get a look and hear Lyle perform publicly, but to his owner’s surprise and dismay, Lyle has stage fright at their debut.

To his credit, Valenti is never shown to be abusive to Lyle but is understandably disappointed, so he leaves Lyle in his family’s Victorian brownstone while he heads out to make some money.

Frank Lee
Frank Lee

What bothered me the most was how Valenti seemed to view Lyle as a meal ticket a lot of the time rather than a living being with, at least in this movie, feelings and capable of love.

In Valenti’s temporary absence from Lyle’s life, the Primm family moves into the residence. Child Josh Primm is anxious, nervous and frightened by his new surroundings and life in the big city.

The lonely boy discovers Lyle hiding out on an upper floor, and they soon become fast friends, learning from each other love and acceptance while facing many of life’s challenges together.

“Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” currently holds a 70% approval rating among critics and a 94% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.

The consensus from the critics at “Parents may not be beguiled, but 'Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile' is bound to make most children smile.”


FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write articles for the Wadena Pioneer Journal weekly newspaper owned by Forum Communications Co.
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