What’s on at the movies

MOVIE REVIEW: Famous Books Come to Life in ‘Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile’

By: Reel Dialogue

For centuries, dogs have been considered “man’s best friend.” They provide companionship and unconditional love that is often hard to find in human relationships. 

Well, what if your best friend were a crocodile? What if your best friend were a crocodile that could sing and sounded just like Shawn Mendes? Finally, what if your best friend made life a little bit better for everyone around him?

The famous children’s books, published in the mid-1960s, told the story of Lyle, a city-dwelling, kind-hearted crocodile, and his adventures with the Primm family in New York City. This film, directed by the Blades of Glory team (Will Farrell on ice skates) and the same musical talents that brought you the Greatest Showman (Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) combined with the talents of Shawn Mendes to tell the story of Lyle the singing crocodile. He can not speak, yet, seems to understand English and can break out in song whenever the moment calls for it. It does not make sense, but kids twelve and under won’t care once Lyle breaks out in one of his many moderately catchy pop songs.

Watch the trailer

Our friendly croc is discovered by a struggling musician named Mr. Valenti, played with over-the-top gusto by Javier Bardem. It’s hard not to watch Bardem and sense Anton Chigurh (No Country for Old Men) brimming just beneath the surface of his forced grin and wheezing laughter, an unfortunate miscast. When Mr. Valenti must depart the city, he leaves behind his tiny, singing crocodile to fend for himself. As Lyle grows, a new family, the Primms, buys the home he occupies in the attic.

Lyle, Lyle Crocodile

The Primm’s are new to New York City. Their son Josh, played with timid-sweetness by Winslow Fegley, has difficulty making friends. As he ventures into the attic, he bumps into the now fully-grown croc. Terrified, Josh does not know what to think. Will it eat him? The boy is terrified until Lyle breaks into song, and the two quickly become close friends. Lyle gives Josh the unconditional love he needs and the confidence he lacks to thrive in his new home. In fact, Lyle has a similar effect on everyone, even the most miserable of people, including the litigious downstairs neighbour, Mr. Grumps (Brett Gelman), and his grumpy CGI cat.

Lyle, Lyle Crocodile

What is disappointing about this film is how average it feels. Especially since it capitalises on the music team that brought us The Greatest Showman, it lacks any song with “ear-worm” charm. The plot makes little sense, and the many contrivances are stupefying. Yet, none of that matters to the twelve-year-old in the next seat, leaning forward, tapping their foot, fully enraptured in Lyle’s happiness to everyone around him. They may also wonder if they could have a pet crocodile like Lyle, who might give them the same kind of unconditional love.

Reel Dialogue: The Love We All Long For
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile

Lyle Lyle Crocodile exposes the universal longing of the human heart to be known and fully loved. We seek this unconditional love in human-to-human relationships and even human-to-animal relationships. Yet, unconditional love seems to elude us no matter where we seek it, at least on a horizontal level. That’s why Jesus beckons us to look up.

God the Father sent his one and only Son, whom he loved in eternity past, in perfect relationship within the Trinity. He gave his Son to us so that we might experience the same kind of love He enjoyed from eternity past. This was a gift we did not earn and certainly do not deserve, yet God offers it freely. We can be fully known and fully loved by the very God who made us. This is the message Jesus came to give us in the gospel of John. God offers this love even now.

MOVIE REVIEW: Puss in Boots

What would you wish for if you had a last wish? DreamWorks brings back the iconic Puss in Boots franchise, a spin-off from the highly successful Shrek series, to explore that question.

Throughout its short history, DreamWorks has produced excellent films with solid storylines. With movies like Shrek, Megamind and Kung Fu Panda in their stable, this production house franchise is well established in the industry. One defining element of their style is a knack for turning absurd storylines into workable plots. In the case of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, this animation studio wishes for an excellent film. Sadly, this film adds little value to this franchise besides the comedy.

Watch the Trailer

Directed by Joel Crawford (Trolls), the film elicits plenty of laughs from Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots. In swashbuckling fashion, Puss takes down the local town giant before being felled by the large town bell. Rescued by the town doctor (who also doubles as the town barber), the sword-wielding feline receives a wake-up call. He is down to the last of his nine lives. After a brief sojourn in cat retirement, Puss strives to regain his immortality in any way possible, with a motley crew of fairy tale characters and unlikely friends trying to thwart his efforts. Puss eventually realises that he is not the most important person and needs to be a friend to others as well. The film contains plenty of laughs, particularly for adults, and children will enjoy seeing fairy tale characters come to life.

However, this film moves at a breakneck pace and has few moments to allow the audience to stop and reflect. This leads to a sense of disconnect between the fairy tale characters’ stories and the film’s plot. A 100-minute production does not give enough time to adequately flesh out at least five separate storylines effectively. As many laughs as the film contains, the plot’s pace will sometimes leave audiences a little lost in the film’s direction. Stereotyping fairy tale creatures made Shrek work very effectively. Yet, reimagining the fairy tale creatures in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish leads to uncertainty and confusion around this film’s direction.

What Should Parents Know?
Puss in Boots the Last Wish (3)

Despite frequent humour and the whimsical nature of fairy tale creatures, this film explores a subject that all humans have contemplated at some point in life. What am I doing with my life and why does it matter? Death is personified exceptionally well in the film, leading to scary scenes that may trouble younger eyes. Even the fairy tale characters seem much rougher, less fantastic than in the traditional tales. This film would benefit from having parents and children watch it together.

REEL DIALOGUE: Do you wonder what comes after death?

The film contains plenty of laughs, but it leaves a strong reminder that death comes to all, and all must live out the life they are given. Death is not a new subject in the world of cinema. While Puss in Boots: The Last Wish gives us a comical look into this subject, it is difficult to avoid its impact on our lives.

Thankfully, the Bible provides most of the answers people (or animated cats) are searching for in this life. This is where the promise of eternal life from the Bible’s God truly brings this subject matter to life. To dig in deeper, it’s all to be considered in Revelation 21-22.

It is not too surprising that belief in an afterlife exists. The difference found in Christianity is that access comes from a place of sacrifice and selflessness. To find out more, check out these links to see the real answers to life, death, and more.

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while then vanishes.” James 4:14

Movie reviews supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.

All images: Movie publicity 

About the author: Matt Townsend is the lead pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel,  Philadelphia. He is passionate about film and loves watching movies with his kids and dissecting their redemptive themes.