“Arlo the Alligator Boy” stars Michael J. Woodard, Mary Lambert, Haley Tju, Jonathan Van Ness, Brett Gelman, Tony Hale, Annie Potts, Flea, Jennifer Coolidge, and Vincent Rodriguez III. Released on Netflix on April 16, 2021, the film is about a humanoid alligator who travels to New York City to search for his long-lost father.
The film featured the directorial debut of Ryan Crego, who is a story artist for films like “Shrek Forever After”, “Kung Fu Panda 2”, “Puss in Boots”, and “Mr. Peabody & Sherman”. With Netflix releasing its films every week, it has become elementary to spot some weird or lesser-known content that the streaming service has to offer. This film is possibly one of them. This is another animated feature from Netflix that saw a former member of a successful animation company taking over directorial duties for the first time. This time, it’s Ryan Crego, a storyboard artist for DreamWorks Animation. A lot of you may not have noticed this was out until it caught your eye while you’re trying to decide the next show to binge-watch. I already found out this was coming out while watching one of Saberspark’s Youtube videos a while ago. After researching the film along with its cast and concept, I immediately figured that this was something that might be right down my alley. The question is, is it good enough for me to recommend it to its target audience?
The story centers on Arlo Beauregard (Woodard), a young boy who is half-human and half-alligator. He’s spending his sheltered life in the bayou with his adoptive mother, Edmée (Potts). When Arlo discovers he’s from New York City, where his birth father (Rodriguez III) resides, he decides to leave the swampy life behind and journey to the city to find him. During his quest, he befriends many unusual creatures, such as a human giantess named Bertie (Lambert) and a tiger girl named Alia (Tju), and tries to outrun two villainous hillbillies. The film serves as a starting point for the upcoming Netflix series “I Heart Arlo”, set to premiere later this year. If its target audience managed to like “Arlo the Alligator Boy”, they have something to look forward to. The question is, am I a part of that audience? Well, sort of. The film had plenty of potential during the first act, considering its story and heartfelt message about staying true to oneself. However, once it got to the second act, it wound up being stranded in a swamp without a boat and a paddle. It’s a simplistic and watered-down fish-out-of-water story that lacked any substantial depth in its scenario and characters. It felt more like a 90-minute pilot for an upcoming children’s show than an actual animated feature. But I will admit that the film’s heart was in the right place, even if the narrative was far from creative. Despite their basic personalities, the characters have a suitable amount of charm and humor to ensure their healthy future in their upcoming series, especially Arlo. Arlo is the type of character who’s full of curiosity and has a can-do attitude, which I believe young viewers can easily relate to. The likability of these characters was strongly due to the voice cast. In addition to some well-known names like Tony Hale, Annie Potts, and Jennifer Coolidge, the film also featured the acting debuts of Michael J. Woodard and singer/songwriter Mary Lambert, who voiced Arlo and Bertie, respectively. Woodard is known for being a Top 5 finalist in the 16th season of “American Idol”, while Lambert worked on the hit single “Same Love” with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Both of them delivered some solid performances in terms of both their speaking and singing roles. Yes, the film is, in fact, a musical with several songs written by Ryan Crego and Alex Geringas (who also did the film’s score). While I’m not expecting one of them to make its way to next year’s Oscars, I can easily say that the songs were pretty darn catchy. They were also backed up very nicely by its upbeat tone and vibrant animation, which was developed by Titmouse, Inc. Outside of the musical sequences, which were the highlights of the film’s style, the animation wasn’t anything too special. It’s not groundbreaking or anything, but it had enough energetic flair and color to keep its viewers glued to the screens.
Overall, there are lots of charm and heart present in “Arlo the Alligator Boy”, but its execution towards its story and message was admittedly swampy. Ryan Crego’s directorial debut should suit well for children and some casual viewers thanks to its voice cast, respectable musical numbers, and dazzling animation. However, it’s no “Over the Moon”, another Netflix film that featured a directorial debut of a former worker from a major animation studio. As a 90-minute pilot for an upcoming children’s show, it’s a fine feel-good adventure that I actually wouldn’t mind seeing what happens next. As an actual film from Netflix, it’s a harmless and flawed piece of animation that’s surprisingly more tolerable than living in a swamp.