Genre: CG Animationm
Director: Kirk DeMicco
Cast: Toni Collette, Jane Fonda, Annie Murphy, Sam Richardson, Lana Condor, Will Forte, Colman Domingo, Liza Koshy, Ramona Young
Runtime: 1 hr 35 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Mature References)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 29 June 2023
Synopsis: A shy adolescent learns that she comes from a fabled royal family of legendary sea krakens and that her destiny lies in the depths of the waters, which is bigger than she could have ever imagined.
Since the acquisition by Universal, DreamWorks Animation has somehow become a shadow of its former self. Under then CEO and founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, the animation outfit was once a strong competitor to Disney. Remember Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon. In recent years however, Illumination, the guys behind the ultra-successful Minions franchise has took over the spot. And things isn’t looking all that good for DreamWorks given Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken has sunk into the depth of the ocean.
Ruby Gillman (Lana Condor) is an ordinary, socially-awkward teenager with a bunch of equally weird friends except Ruby is no ordinary teenager. She is in fact a kraken living on land and she is the heir to the kraken throne. It’s just that she doesn’t know about the part on the throne yet. For now, she is trying to summon enough courage to convince her overprotective mom, Agatha (Toni Colette) to let her go to junior prom which is schedule to take place on a boat and her mom forbids her to go anywhere near the water even though they live in a seaside town.
When an accident involving her crush, Connor left her turning into a gigantic glowing kraken, Ruby discovers she has a grandmother, Grandmamah (Jane Fonda) in this case and also happens to be the Warrior of the Seven Seas. Shortly, we learned that Agatha herself is estranged from her controlling mother for 15 years and also there’s a conflict that has been brewing between mermaids and krakens.
Despite being a respectable coming-of-age animation, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken comes at the wrong time especially after the much superior Luca and Turning Red. Ruby and Luca both involved mythical sea creatures that transforms into human forms. While Luca focused heavily on the theme of friendship, Ruby adhere more towards family. There’s of course Ruby’s stoic father (Colman Domingo), her wacky younger brother, Sam and a fumbling Uncle Brill (Sam Richardson) that adds to all the mayhem.
Most importantly, Ruby also touches on teenage angst, adolescence years and girl power issues, stuff that Turning Red has done far more successfully and with more heart. The story by Pam Brady does has its fair share of wicked humour especially when it introduced a mermaid as Ruby’s bestie. Just like Shrek is mocking Disney’s trademark Princess animations, Ruby on the other hand turns the usually beloved, kind mermaids into some sort of narcissistic monsters. We give her points for that.
Unfortunately, Ruby relies too much of visual madness and the obligatory massive CGI battle finale to tell a good heartwarming story. Director Kirk DeMicco (Vivo, The Croods) piles on the action to make up for the lack of narrative and characterizations between Ruby, Agatha and Grandmmamah. If the filmmakers’ attempt is to win over the younger audiences then they are on the right track. Teenagers who are supposed to be the targeted audience might find this less appealing comparing to Turning Red.
Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is kind of a mixed bag. It has a cute, mesmerizing plot and lovable characters. Making krakens as the good guys is pretty creative. The animation is a blast. The voice cast is amazing. But given the current economic climate, these factors are no longer enough to warrant a purchased ticket in an airconditioned hall.
(Enjoyable but mediocre family animation)
Review by Linus Tee