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Davis Journal

‘Amsterdam’ a mess, but ‘Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile’ good for kids

Oct 07, 2022 12:28PM ● By Jenniffer Wardell

The Clearfield High Drum Line kicks off the 2022 Chamber Business Awards banquet at the Davis Conference Center held Sept. 29. The annual event recognizes businesses making an impact in the community. Photo by Becky Ginos

Amsterdam (in theaters) 

There’s a good idea buried somewhere deep in “Amsterdam.”

The original spark for David O. Russell’s latest movie seems to have been a profoundly timely warning about fascism and not letting yourself be swayed by the wrong people. There were also some lovely thoughts on friendship, along with a great cast all trying their absolute hardest. Put together differently, these could have been solid building blocks for a movie. 

Rather than building anything, however, Russell seems to have put all this in a blender and hit maximum speed. “Amsterdam” is a frantic, exaggerated mish-mash of a movie, with Russell’s natural penchant for dramatic dialogue cranked up so high it turns into nonsense. Nearly every line feels like it was created by a bot that had been force-fed a “great literature of the 20th century” top 10 list. It sounds like it makes sense at first, but every time you try to parse it for actual meaning it vanishes.

The direction matches this all too closely, with nearly every moment played so exaggeratedly that I kept waiting for the movie to turn into a parody. The material isn’t even slightly humorous, offering a fairly blunt look at everything from the horrors of war to flat-out murder, but the style always seems like everyone is only moments away from a pratfall or dance number. 

The conflict between the tone and topic is deeply jarring, broken only by the few moments of genuine feeling the cast manage to create. In those moments, the good ideas buried deep in the middle of all this manage to gleam through. 

Grade: One and a half stars

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile (In theaters)

Have you ever had the feeling a movie should be better than it is?

Not that “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” is a bad movie. Based on the classic children’s book, it’s a perfectly pleasant romp with a nice message about finding people that accept you. Javier Bardem is charming as Hector P. Valenti, Brett Gelman is suitably villainous as Mr. Grumps, and everyone else is solid. The titular crocodile is animated well, and has a sweet range of expressions. The grumpy neighbor cat is unexpectedly fun.

But the story feels padded, with a bunch of added complications that distract from the main theme instead of adding to it. The songs are catchy, but choosing a pop star instead of thinking about what an alligator actually sounds like takes away from the magic. Seeing it onscreen feels less like Lyle is singing and more like he swallowed a radio. The poor neighbor cat is animated in a way that feels off-putting.

Taken together, it dims some of the magic the movie could have had. Kids will still be charmed, especially younger ones, but it won’t quite reach everyone.

Grade: Two and a half stars

Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Utah Film Critics Association. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at [email protected]. λ