At The Movies: Make some noise for Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile and Decibel

(From left) Lyle the crocodile, Mrs Primm (Constance Wu), Hector P. Valenti (Javier Bardem) and Josh Primm (Winslow Fegley) in Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. PHOTO: SONY PICTURES
A family moves to New York City and find in their townhouse attic the titular crocodile that sings. PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile (PG)

107 minutes, opens on Thursday

4 stars

The story: A family moves to New York City and find in their townhouse attic the titular crocodile that sings in the honeyed tenor of Canadian pop idol Shawn Mendes.

Directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon have adapted the 1960s picture book series by Bernard Waber into a likeable live-action musical comedy.

Lyle sings but does not speak, which happily frees Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile from those grating pop-culture wisecracks infecting kids’ entertainment today.

He is a 2.5m, 900kg CGI biped. Yet, the biggest personality here is Javier Bardem’s flamboyant turn as his vaudevillian owner Hector P. Valenti. Their duet Take A Look At Us Now, performed with gusto, is one of eight original songs composed by Mendes and Oscar-winning songwriting duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

The greasy moustachioed hustler had adopted Lyle from a Manhattan pet shop to exploit him for show-business fame, only to leave him — although not without an MP3 player and a pair of headphones — when the reptile developed stage fright.

Eight years later, Lyle is discovered by his new housemates and becomes a beloved member of the family, easing the anxious tween son Josh (Winslow Fegley) into city life and leading the cookbook author mum (Constance Wu) on a manic tap dance around the kitchen.

The maths teacher dad (Scoot McNairy) is initially terrified they would be eaten alive. “Lyle’s not like that,” the son reassures. “He wears a scarf.”

Trouble arrives in the form of a spiteful neighbour (Brett Gelman), and then Valenti, who wants Lyle back. But worry not: No animals, least of all sweet-natured Lyle, were harmed in the making of the cheerful movie.

Hot take: With apologies to Sir Elton John, this fun sing-along is the definitive Crocodile Rock.

Decibel (PG13)

Jung Sang-hoon (left) and Kim Rae-won in Decibel. PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE

110 minutes, opens on Thursday

3 stars

The story: Shh, quiet, everyone. Explosives triggered by sound have been planted in the city centre of South Korea’s Busan with maximum casualties intended – and a retired navy commander (Kim Rae-won) the specific target.

South Korean director Hwang In-ho bills Decibel as a “sound terror action” blockbuster. And in his urban terrorist thriller, where any noise is a potential detonator, all credit indeed to the sound engineers for wringing mortal suspense from even a boiling kettle and pinging phones.

The mysterious bomber has wired up the loudest, most popular public venues.

In anonymous calls, he taunts Kim’s commander to decide between saving the crowds at a football stadium and a water park, and his family at a neighbourhood playground – and then between saving his wife (Lee Sang-hee) and their daughter (Shin Yun-ju).

Kim, 41, is the envy of every middle-aged dad, performing his own stunts in starched navy whites barely soiled as he desperately races around to defuse the attacks. No comfy tee needed for better jumping off buildings and diving underwater in the six-hour campaign of chaos.

The veteran, a national hero, is, however, a flawed one, burdened by a shameful lie behind another impossible life-or-death dilemma a year earlier. Flashbacks recount a doomed submarine expedition and how the captain of his crew survived a personal loss to now pursue a vendetta against him.

Lee Jong-suk plays this antagonist with textbook creepy-psychopath mannerisms. The movie is strictly genre fare, but the thrills are non-stop, and it has a human drama motivated by moral choices.

Hot take: The tense story and Kim’s anguished performance are the bomb.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.