For kids, this won’t matter much, and Lyle is good enough that it may well have staying power at sleepovers and family movie nights for years to come. It is, however, disappointing to see a film with oodles of potential fail to stick the landing, especially when the right moves are obvious.
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Whatever joy you get in individual moments is lost in the shuffle of a film that far overstays its welcome.
It’s all harmless fun, containing enough mild laughs and genuinely sweet moments (if you can contain your emotions during the reunion scene between Lyle and Hector, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am) to keep its target audiences entertained.
A final word about Bardem: He’s simply terrific. With his shaggy curly hair, exaggerated showmanship, athletic dance moves and operatic gestures, Hector is part Willy Wonka and part Gene Kelly — it’s Bardem’s most off-the-rails performance since his turn as a James Bond villain in “Skyfall.”
Along with a few bouncy numbers from “The Greatest Showman” duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Bardem is the driving force behind “Lyle,” and the train loses major steam without its kooky conductor.
The result is a movie likely to appeal as much to anyone who enjoys pop-scored animal hijinks on TikTok as to anyone who actually remembers the books.
While not enough to sell Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, Bardem’s mission to out-cartoon his animated scene partner (admittedly not difficult) still feels like a blow struck for old-school flesh-and-blood eccentricity in the age of blah digital cutes. May that battle continue.
The drama is fairly mild, the action cute and slapshticky and the Lyle sight gags aimed at six and unders, so don’t look or listen for great verbal or visual wit.
The whole picture is an exercise in obvious effort, try, try, trying really hard to win the audience’s affection. However it only succeeds in trying the audience’s patience. It’s a trial.
For a film that is sold on the image and idea of a big, singing, dancing crocodile – who is otherwise mute when not belting out his tunes – there seems to be a real disinterest in any notable sight gags or physicality to Lyle as a character.