Monday, 22 July 2024

‘Lyle, Lyle’ family-friendly fun; ‘The Bat’ gothic horror


Based on the popular children’s book series about a crocodile living in New York City, “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” is a natural for family-friendly entertainment that seems increasingly to be in short supply.

The Bernard Waber best-seller seemed right to turn into a musical comedy at the hands of screenwriter Will Davies (“How to Train Your Dragon”) for a film directed by the team of Will Speck and Josh Gordon (“Office Christmas Party” comedy).

Javier Bardem’s Hector P. Valenti, a low-rent magician trying to get his shot in the entertainment business by appearing on a televised talent show, showcases an animal magic act that fails miserably.

Searching for a new angle, he stumbles upon a baby crocodile in the rear of an exotic pet shop and is stunned by the animal’s singing talent. Dollar signs light up his eyes, thinking he’s found the golden ticket.

Hector doesn’t account for stage fright happening to a reptile, and when Lyle the crocodile reaches full size he ends up living in the attic of a Manhattan brownstone apartment building.

Hector takes off on a road trip, leaving Lyle behind.
When the Primm family moves to New York City, adjustments need to be made to big city living, but nothing proves more startling than the encounter with a crocodile in the attic.

Taking second place for a surprise is the Primms’ most unneighborly new neighbor Mr. Grumps (Brett Gelman), who lives alone with a cat suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and takes it upon himself to enforce HOA rules as if he were a member of the Stasi.

Scoot McNairy and Constance Wu are the parents, and young son Josh (Winslow Fegley) struggles to adapt to his new school and make new friends. That changes when he discovers the singing crocodile (voiced by Shawn Mendes) who enjoys bubble baths and caviar.

Josh bonds with Lyle and they go on evening forays for dumpster diving because the crocodile has an appetite to match his size. Even the neighbor’s cat Loretta joins these outings.

At first alarmed by Lyle’s presence, Josh’s parents soon become as fond of their new reptilian friend, and since this kind of movie needs a heartwarming tale, a certain fate awaits Lyle when the city officials start poking around.

Never fear, however, that a film like “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” which is geared primarily to kids, fails to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Even adults in tow with the young ones should find amusement with the antics of the charming reptile and the spoiled feline.


Arguably, the fallout of the pandemic continues to impact the quality of films being released. Maybe, it’s just me but nostalgia is taking hold to revisit vintage cinema that is often the staple of Turner Classic Movies.

What could be more classic that Vincent Price, an actor in television and radio, but also acclaimed for stage performances and whose first film role was the leading man in a comedy? And yet, his career is mostly defined for gothic horror films.

On Oct. 25, The Film Detective, a classic film restoration and streaming company, will release the 1959 horror classic, “The Bat,” on special-edition Blu-ray and DVD.

Famous mystery writer Cornelia van Gorder (Agnes Moorehead) has rented a downtrodden country estate called “The Oaks,” owned by banker John Fleming (Harvey Stephens) who has embezzled a considerable sum of money.

A series of gruesome murders have taken place in the mansion by a mysterious criminal known as “The Bat.” Vincent Price’s Dr. Malcolm Wells figures into the picture because of his friendship with the banker.

Fleming confides in his friend the good doctor about the ill-gotten gains of one million dollars in bonds that are hidden in the family mansion and offers to share the loot upon help in faking his death.

Taking up residence in the mansion shared with a bunch of other guests, Dr. Wells will search for the hiding place, and then the predator with steel claws shows up to rip his victims to shreds. Who is this villain that goes on a killing spree?

Was it the butler? No, that’s too easy and simple, even though he comes under suspicion. What we get is an impressive gallery of weirdos who are guaranteed to give you the creeps. Which of them is the mysterious killer? That’s for you to find out.

The beauty of this release of “The Bat” is the restoration of a pristine print from original 35mm archival elements and the host of bonus features that fans have come to expect.

Notably, the release includes nine archival radio re-broadcasts featuring the iconic Vincent Price in everything from the popular radio drama “Suspense” to a comedic performance for CBS Radio Workshop in “Speaking of Cinderella.”

Bonus features of “The Bat” includes a full-color booklet with an essay, “The Case of the Forgotten Author,” by professor and film scholar Jason A. Ney, and an all-new, original production, “The Case for Crane Wilbur,” the writer and director of “The Bat.”

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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