Andrea’s Angle | “Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken” – Full of Depth

As soon as I saw the trailer for this Dreamworks film, I knew that it had the potential to be an excellent movie. It looked fun but, more importantly, at least to me, an imaginative storyline that was different. Once I had the chance to see the film, I was happy to see that I was right. The film is unique, with a genuine twist in the plot, does a wonderful job of exploring the mother-daughter dynamics in several ways, and I adored the references to another ocean movie. It was complex and full of depth.

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is a computer-animated action comedy film produced by Dreamworks Animation and distributed by Universal Pictures. It is directed by Kirk DeMicco, co-directed by Faryn Pearl, and written by Pam Brady and the writing team of Brian C. Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi. In the movie, fifteen-year-old Ruby Kraken (Lana Condor) lives with her family, who are trying to fit in. Her mother, Agatha (Toni Collette), forbids her from going to the prom due to it being on a boat on the ocean. She’s warned Ruby to never go into the ocean. But Ruby is encouraged to go by her friend squad, Margot (Liza Koshy). Trevin (Eduardo Franco) and Bliss (Ramona Young), and she decides to ask her crush Connor (Jaboukie Young-White), to the prom. Before she can do so, he falls into the ocean, and she goes in after him trying to rescue him. She learns that she is a direct descendent of battle-hardened krakens who have protected the land and ocean from mermaids for generations and is also destined to inherit the throne from her grandmother, the Warrior Queen of the Seven Seas (Jane Fonda). She also learns the new girl at school, Chelsea (Annie Murphy), is one of the mermaids. But can Ruby learn how to control her abilities and prevent a new threat from destroying her family and friends?

One of the biggest reasons I truly enjoyed this film is that it is unique and inventive. While films about the ocean have been done before, like The Little Mermaid, Moana, and Luca, this one focuses on creatures that would normally be considered monsters and spin the idea around to make krakens the heroes. In that twist, mermaids are the ones who are dangerous. Not only is the concept written believably, but the change makes for an imaginative story that does create a newer feel to the movie. The themes of the film are timeless, especially focusing on family, friends, and discovering your identity but using a different framework, heroic Krakens, makes it feel fresh and new to viewers. I also like that Krakens are the protectors of the ocean.

Speaking of those themes, most of them connect and resonate with me. Other films have explored the mother-daughter dynamic and relationship, but this one explores it both between Ruby and her mother and also in the interactions with Agatha and her mother. I like that there are secrets, and much like in Turning Red, that exploration is handled well, not shortchanging the overall story but adding depth and complexity. This film highlights Ruby finding her identity and acceptance as who she is, and while that has been explored before, what I like about this, is that part of her identity is as a mathematician. She uses math in her life, and that will help other girls see that they can also be good at skills that are touted as belonging more to men. The other theme of friendship explores the ups and downs of those relationships, both the positive and negative elements, but consistently shows that our friends can be as much family as our blood relatives.

Another aspect of the film I like is the frequent references to other ocean-related films. In making the mermaids the antagonists in the film, the writers none to subtly reference The Little Mermaid in a variety of ways. I love that they aren’t subtle, in fact, because it adds to the humor and fun of the film. Chelsea is very reminiscent of Ariel, and there are several scenes that will make you laugh when she behaves in a similar fashion. I also like the way the references are used to satirize mermaids. And beyond these satirical moments, there is plenty of witty humor throughout the film to keep you laughing.

The animation is as fun and unique as the storyline. When Ruby changes into her full Kraken form and is glowing, the forms and lines of the animation are beautiful. The scenes underwater are absorbing and gorgeous. It is some of the best animation that I’ve seen come out of Dreamworks Animation, and they are known for great film work. The animated forms are both beautiful and inventive.

And let’s not fail to mention the actors who lend their voices to the characters. Lana Condor is engaging and easy to connect to as Ruby. Her emotions are believable, and she is a warm, empathetic character. Toni Collette is fantastic as Agatha, enhancing both the comedy but also adding just the right touch of mom energy to her character. Jane Fonda is fantastically funny and skilled as Grandmamah, Warrior Queen. The actors playing Ruby’s friends, Liza Koshy, Eduardo Franco, Ramona Young, and Jaboukie White-Young, are warm and caring and have their own moments of funny scene-stealing opportunities. Annie Murphy is spot-on perfect as Chelsea. Colman Domingo as Arthur Gillman, Ruby’s father, and Blue Chapman as Sam, her brother, add to the complexity and fun of the movie. Will Forte as Gordon Lighthouse, a rusty old sailor, gives us even more ocean jokes.

The only small critique I have is that, much like most films geared toward young adults and families, the film is predictable. You can figure out most of the plot despite the inventive framework and the hilarious jokes. But without giving anything away, I did find the ending a unique solution to the battle that Ruby and her family find themselves in, and the storyline is fun-filled and adventurous.

If you like animated films or you have children, I think this film is a great one to go watch. Not only is it fun for the kids, but adults will enjoy the sly and tongue-in-cheek references to various oceanic figures and films. The themes of family, identity, and mother-daughter relationships are well explored. The story is full of depth and complexity, as well as having a unique hero. The animation is gorgeous, and the acting is excellent. This was one of my favorite animated films that I’ve seen in quite a while. I totally recommend checking it out.

4 out of 5 sea monsters.

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Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken

Genre: Animation/Action/Adventure/Comedy/Family/Fantasy

Sweet, awkward 16-year-old Ruby Gillman (Lana Condor, TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE franchise) is desperate to fit in at Oceanside High, but she mostly just feels invisible. She’s math-tutoring her skater-boy crush (Jaboukie Young-White, RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET), who only seems to admire her for her fractals, and she’s prevented from hanging out with the cool kids at the beach because her over-protective supermom (Oscar® nominee Toni Collette, KNIVES OUT), has forbade Ruby from ever getting in the water.
But when she breaks her mom’s #1 rule, Ruby will discover that she is a direct descendant of the warrior Kraken queens and is destined to inherit the throne from her commanding grandmother (Academy Award® winner Jane Fonda), the Warrior Queen of the Seven Seas.
RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN opens exclusively in theaters on June 30, 2023.

ONE-LINER: Discover the hero just beneath the surface.

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