Voice of Lana Condor & Jane Fonda – The Hollywood Reporter
You’ve met Ruby Gillman, DreamWorks’ chief campaigner, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken, before: She is an awkward teenager (her favorite subject is math), who lives through high school fame with her close friends (they call her “the squad”). on themselves. She worries about normal childhood issues, like wanting to crush her and running away from her mother’s watchful eye. Her parents love her, but they could stand to push back their overprotective instincts. And, oh, Ruby has a big secret: She’s a kraken.
Like several supernatural beings and humans before them (Miles Morales of Spider-Man, which would make for an enjoyable double bill with this film; Darby of Darby and the dead; and Wei-Chen entered Chinese born American), Ruby leads a double life. She cannot tell her friends that she is a squid-like creature that, according to legends, destroys ships and their sailors. Her parents moved to Oceanside, a quaint little town by the water, 15 years ago to live peacefully among people. The Gillmans explain their shapely bodies, bluish-red skin and other differences by claiming Canadian roots. No one asks follow-up questions and, as long as they stay away from the water, mixing is not a problem at all.
Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken
The bottom line
Very attractive, even if he doesn’t wake up.
The no water rule puts Ruby in a difficult spot as she is desperate to go to prom, which is, inconveniently, being hosted on a large boat this year. In a giddy and effective opening montage, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken introducing us to the progress of Oceanside, details of the daily life of the Gillmans and the depth of Ruby’s dilemma. Her mother, Agatha (Toni Collette), rejects her carefully constructed proposal video, and Ruby learns that her friends – Margot (Liza Koshy), Bliss (Ramona Young) and Trevin (Eduardo Franco) – going to prom anyway. So much for team loyalty.
Directed by Kirk DeMicco, co-directed by Faryn Pearl, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken charm and woos in a predictable way. This is not to say that the film is bad – at a sweet 90 minutes, who can complain? – but your slower moments may shift your mind to other, more interesting versions of the familiar story. Ruby Gillman uses its teenage protagonist’s physical differences and family drama to weave a narrative about finding your voice and charting new paths amid generational conflict. The last topic couldn’t help but remind me A strange world, another film about a teenager who struggles to fit in and whose parents don’t know how to let go. In this charming animated adventure, Ethan, voiced by Jaboukie Young-White, finds himself caught between the dreams of his father and his grandfather. Should he inherit the agribusiness his father cultivated or find an unknown land?
Ruby is in a similar situation. After her crush’s “compliment” is denied by Connor (voiced by Young-White), Ruby is forced to break her mother’s no-water rule. Jumping into the ocean activates a concentrated power within the young kraken, who, while saving her crush from drowning, grows amazingly. Not only does its sheer size scare the residents of Oceanside; he also forces her mother to tell Ruby the truth: The 16-year-old comes from a line of kraken warriors, who, despite their terrible reputation, have protected the sea for centuries.
Ruby is next in line for the throne, and her grandmother (Jane Fonda) has been waiting for her return. Grandmamah, as she likes to be called, wants Ruby to take her place as queen. (This plot point remembers the options it faces The princess’s diary‘Mia Thermopolis.) Agatha would prefer her daughter to have a very normal life, away from the dangers of the ocean.
It is not difficult to predict what will happen next Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken. These revelations throw the teenager for a loop and hurt her relationship with her mother. What else, to borrow a phrase from Agatha herself, is “a little neglected”? How can the teenager trust anyone now?
Rebellion continues. Ruby searches for answers about her family’s legacy and forms an unlikely bond with Oceanside’s newest resident, Chelsea Van Der Zee (Annie Murphy). Mistakes are made, battles are fought and bonds are inevitably broken and, naturally, restored.
After an erratic first half, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken plod along at a steady pace, hitting the familiar beats of his usual plot. There is strength in the animation, which includes imaginative depictions of aquatic life, including a majestic battle scene near the end of the film. And it’s hard to beat the chemistry of the voice cast, which includes Colman Domingo, Sam Richardson and Will Forte.
However, these elements are not enough to raise the film to truly impressive heights. The screenplay, by Pam Brady, Brian C. Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi, does a good job of referring to the things that exist in today’s life (there was a bit of glee about our urge to flow -live on me), but it doesn’t dig deep enough into Ruby’s story – especially the challenging relationship between her, her mother and grandmother – to underpin the film’s urgent emotional efforts. In the end, we feel like we’ve been awarded documentary prizes we didn’t have to earn.