Take a Look at Us Now: ‘Lyle Lyle Crocodile’ Gets a Big Screen Spotlight


If you love anthropomorphic media and want to watch a loveable gator stand on his hind legs for two hours, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile is an unironic must-see.

Released for the big screen last October, this film directed by Will Speck advertises itself as a PG-rated musical comedy adventure for slightly older children. Its style pays tribute to older anthropomorphic classics like Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007) and Space Jam (1997) by blending animated characters into live-action shots.

Illustrated, traditionally American, and a sequel to The House on East 88th Street, 1965 saw the publication of a very famous children’s book by Bernard Waber: Lyle, Lyle Crocodile. Now, decades later, this classic has been adapted into a family-friendly tale which has gained soaring scores on both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.

This heart-warming story follows the narrative of the titular Lyle, a green crocodile with an irresistible urge to sing. When Hector P. Valenti, a failing showman, finds him rehearsing a rendition of ‘I Like It Like That’ by Pete Rodriguez in the backrooms of an exotic pet shop, the two are instantly transfixed, forming a singing and dancing partnership which they plan to take to the stage.

In a leap of faith, Hector exchanges his home for a chance to perform with his new pet but the turns sour after Lyle gets stage fright on the big day. In an attempt to reclaim his assets, Hector leaves his prized croc in his New York home to fend for himself, with only an iPod and a set of headphones enclosed within his claws.

Lonely and abandoned, he masters the art of dumpster diving to feed himself, sitting on top of skyscrapers as he stares at the human world he knows he can never be a part of. That is until the arrival of the Primm family. Moving into the home, which has been left abandoned for several years, the three members become acquainted with the now giant creature one by one through a series of songs and dances.

All have problems that are waiting to be fixed by Lyle: young Josh finds a friend in a lonely city, Mrs Primm finds a source of inspiration, and Mr Primm is reintroduced to his past dreams of being a pro wrestler. Able to appreciate parts of themselves through Lyle’s help, they then team up to help their scaly saviour become accepted by human society.

The brilliant soundtrack was released on Spotify and features the voices of Claire Rosinkranz, Anthony Ramos and Shawn Mendes, who voices Lyle himself. Similarly, Matthew Margeson, who composed the main score, should be given immense credit for his work on this title. Tracks such as ‘Night on the Town’ and ‘Walk to School’ parallel the early work of Christopher Lennertz, who composed for Alvin and the Chipmunks and Marmaduke.

I also have a lot to praise in regard to the character design of this film. Whilst Lyle is a caricature, he still manages to balance being between cartoon and reality. Admittedly, the first few scenes where we are introduced to him do feel uncanny, but he ultimately sports a convincing anthropomorphic appearance which interacts nicely with both the actors and the environment.

Even though Lyle, Lyle Crocodile appeals to a younger audience, it is very much a family film which is not frightened to shy away from emotionally taxing themes. Through the comparison between Lyle’s life with Hector and the Primms, the writers highlight the importance of unconditional love from our family. Lyle is very sensitive and has a big heart which he is not afraid to give to others, but he is in desperate need of a consistent support circle, which he discovers in the Primms.

Hector and Lyle’s partnership appears to be a fantastic match due to their theatrical gifts, but Hector’s caregiving is inconsistent and his affection is dependent on what “his prized possession” can offer him in return. The crocodile struggles to understand what the definition of “you and me” – a reference to the lyrics of his signature song ‘Take a Look at Us Now’ – truly is until the end of the runtime, when he feels the unity between himself and Josh.

Occasionally, filler scenes and dialogue felt predictable and certain plot points were not rounded up in a satisfying way, such as what the future held for Lyle and Hector’s relationship. I feel as if the writers attempted to cram too much content together without fully realising how it worked as a linear narrative, but I can excuse this for the sheer charm the film upholds.

Whilst it is not perfectly crafted, I still thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I came out of the cinema with giddy joy and a strong sense of inspiration. Plus, with the recent acclaimed releases of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Zootopia+, I’m excited to see what else western anthropomorphic media has to offer going forward.

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