- It rekindled memories of watching "The Sound of Music" with my dad at the Art Deco Regal Cinema in Mumbai back in the 1960s.
I love musicals! My very first musical and my all-time favorite is “The Sound of Music.” I saw it with my dad at the Art Deco Regal Cinema in Mumbai in the 1960s. This is a magical place built in 1935 by Framji Sidhwa. I was mesmerized as soon as I sat on the plush red velvet seat and when Julie Andrews began to sing, my heart almost stopped in delight. I sat glued to the seat there with my eyes agog with joy and my ears attuned to the lovely melodies. My dad bought me my first LP of “The Sound of Music.” I memorized all the songs as the record played in our house from dawn to dusk. I still sing them to recreate that special memory when I am feeling blue.
But I am on the lookout for other movies that recreate the joy of childhood. I am partial to “Aladdin” because of Robin William’s wonderful appearance as the Genie. Balu the bear from the “Lion King” always keeps me focussed on “the bare necessities of life.” I ride the umbrella with “Mary Poppins” and reach out for my “spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.”
Recently, I watched another movie that made me laugh out loud. It was “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.” A 2022 American musical comedy film released by Columbia Pictures. It is directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon and based on a children’s story and its prequel The House on East 88th Street by Bernard Waber. The screenplay was penned by William Davies. The film stars Shawn Mendes as Lyle, the crocodile, with Javier Bardem, Constance Wu, Winslow Fegley, Scoot McNairy, and Brett Gelman.
I was particularly interested to watch this film because I lived on East 82nd street when I worked at Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital and was curious about the Upper East Side. Especially when I was asked every day by my colleagues: Have you been mugged yet? So, on one irksome October day, I wrapped up work and went to see “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” by myself. I settled in my seat with a bag of fresh popcorn. Trying to erase the negative energy of the day by visualizing the charisma of Anthony Bardem. I purposely did not read the plot or reviews beforehand because I wanted to be surprised. And I was surprised to see Hector Valent (Anthony Bardem), a not-so-successful magician, went into an exotic pet store and came face to face with a singing baby crocodile. Who could resist such an unexpected creature?
Of course, Valenti takes this singing sensation home and names him Lyle. Valenti sings with Lyle and is convinced that Lyle is his ticket to shine in showbiz. He pledges his 3-story Victorian brownstone home as collateral and takes out a loan to book shows. But poor Lyle has performance anxiety and the show tanks. Valenti loses everything but the shirt on his back. He steals out of the house at night leaving Lyle to fend for himself. Now, after admiring Anthony Bardem’s sensitive role in the movie “Eat, Pray, Love,” I was miffed by his insensitivity towards baby Lyle.
Several months later the Primms family moved into the house. The son Josh has trouble adjusting to the new school but one night, he discovers Lyle, now fully grown, living in the attic. Lyle puts on a show for Josh on the terrace. It’s wonderful! The live performance by a singing crocodile against the New York skyline would melt any heart! Lyle becomes Josh’s friend, companion, playmate and savior. Josh’s stepmother Constance Wu (from “Crazy Rich Asians”) and his father find out about Lyle. They are terrified of him, like any adult would be but Lyle wins them over by encouraging them to indulge in their favorite hobbies. Everything is hunky dory in their home now, with a lot of singing and dancing.
One day Valenti returns to the house to visit Lyle, and books another live performance but Lyle freezes again. Lyle is crestfallen. Valenti is dejected. The Primm family is vexed. Mr. Grumps, the Primms’ downstairs neighbor is grumpy. There is trouble in paradise. To see what happens next and to enjoy the lovely musical numbers belted by Shawn Mendes, I think this movie is a must-see! It casts a spell. You fall in love with Lyle’s generous and forgiving nature. He could be a happy and faithful Labrador, a fluffy rabbit, a talking parrot, or a beloved dinosaur (Barney?), or all of them rolled into one. But best of all he is a figment of any curious child’s imagination!
“Lyle, Lyle” lifted me out of the weariness of adulthood and made me feel light as a feather. I was charmed by this warm-hearted family-friendly film. I would love to watch it again with my grandson.
With one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. She has published hundreds of poems, movie reviews, book critiques, and essays and contributed to combined literary works. Her two books are “My Light Reflections” and “ Flow through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM and the Princess Theater.