Why Shawn Mendes’ Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile Character Sings, But Doesn’t Talk, Per The Directors

Among the latest fall movies to hit theaters is Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, a sweet family-friendly musical about a crocodile who finds an unexpected home in New York City. Canadian singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes is the voice behind Lyle, but as you’ll find when you see the movie, Lyle communicates only through song. This begs the question: why doesn’t he talk? 

When CinemaBlend spoke to Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon, the filmmakers shared their reasoning behind the decision. In Speck’s words:  

It was a conscious choice on our part… Hector leaves him with a digital player that has music on it [early in the film]. So that's our justification for how he taught himself these songs. But I think for us it was really important that we had a character where the other characters could infer a lot from him. I think Lyle is a great listener and I think a lot of people just need that kind of space and partner in order to make changes, as opposed to being led completely. So I think for us it's something that we thought was a really unique way [to tell a story].

Early in the adaptation of the beloved children’s book, Lyle has a gift of song and is noticed by Javier Bardem’s Hector P. Valenti in the back of a pet shop. Upon recognizing his talent, Hector brings Lyle home and puts together a show they’ll play together. The movie shows that Lyle’s upbringing is full of song, and as the directors pointed out, Lyle being given a music player plays into him expressing himself mainly through song. 

Lyle is a rather shy character in the movie, or as the directors also have called him, a “gentle genius.” Thus, the CGI croc was given a lot of melody and no words to say. It’s certainly a unique choice that sets Lyle apart from other family-friendly characters. And as Speck told us, the fact that Lyle is a great listener was a big part of their justification for Lyle being nearly mute.

Will Speck and Josh Gordon have been longtime collaborators that previously made Blades of Glory, The Switch and Office Christmas Party together. As Gordon also told CinemaBlend, when they were first getting started, they made a short film together where the characters didn’t talk either, and audiences had to fill in the words. 

In Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, Lyle’s gift for song and ability to pay attention and observe the Primm family allows him to become a valuable part of the family. Do audiences like this decision, though? Ahead of Lyle’s release, the movie has received mixed to reviews from critics overall, with CinemaBlend’s Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile review awarding the film a 2 out of 5.  

The movie also stars Constance Wu, Winslow Fegley and Brett Gelman. It's now open in theaters alongside David O. Russell’s Amsterdam

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.