Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken, is definitely going to be expanded upon following its theatrical run. Whether one goes to see it on the big screen or after it’s run on streaming services, the room left for growing this world is certainly evident.
In what I loved from this coming of age tale is that the hero finds her self-worth. It’s an enjoyable film. Although what’s presented is no different from Turning Red, the legends to which this story borrows from is not limited to one legendary monster. There may be more hiding in plain sight, and we’re not just seeing it. Hopefully a television series is considered since this world is ripe for expansion!
What’s introduced is but a start for the title character (voiced by Lana Condor). She’s a very socially awkward teen who later learns she can command respect when she wants to make it so. But before she can become that hero, she has to learn about her heritage. That’s because when her parents left the sea life behind, they decided that it’s best not to tell her anything. Thankfully, it’s all disclosed later in the story.
This new world created by Brian C. Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi is partially inspired by mythology. But in order for DreamWorks to produce it, what they pitched many years ago needed to be fine tuned. Their original idea was titled Meet the Gillmans, and I’m sure if that title remained, folks would want to compare it to Meet the Robinsons. Had that not been changed, this film may have floundered. And in what the trailer revealed concerning a big war between two of the aquatic species, that was enough for me to say I should see this movie.
The Krakens and Merpeople (I have trouble believing only females exist) have been at war forever and if they are to make peace, it’ll take more than a girl to save the oceans. Unlike Aquaman where whoever wields the trident is named ruler, what happens here goes a different way. She befriends a new girl, Chelsea (Annie Murphy), but little does she know what her plans are when she reveals that she’s a mermaid. Although this weapon should belong to Poseidon, I’ll have to look up who this other god is that made it.
Although I wanted more foundation of this mythology to be laid out, this high school drama is equally essential to moving the narrative forward. However, when much of it is all too familiar, there’s really nothing new to make this movie stand out. It’s tough to break out of the magical girl narrative; when we all see Ruby pining over a boy (Jaboukie Young-White), not every tween will want to go see this. Her friends, which includes a video-gamer, goth and nerd–are very atypical for the genre too. I went to this film because DreamWorks Animation can do no wrong. Had it included some connection with Greco-Roman lore, to which both legends are often associated with, I’d be more invested.
What’s spouted out by the loony Captain Gordon Lighthouse (Will Forte) yelling sea shanties is amusing, but that isn’t enough when this crusty sailor is all about proving Krakens exist. This actor is clearly having fun in the role, and he’s the better comic relief than Gillman’s family, namely her brother (Blue Chapman) and father (Colman Domingo). As for what he’d do should he catch one, it does not sound good. He blames them for losing an eye, but I have to wonder he met any other sea monsters, Sirens included!
And in this outing, I’m glad DreamWorks Animation has gone back to the basics instead of trying to innovate with their CGI technology. To do that with an animated film really depends on how different it wants to be. Here, to render those pastel colours in the air and under the sea must likely mean that they can’t spend too much time tweaking.
And just when I thought this film might be another adaptation of a children’s book, I’m glad to discover it is not! Although this studio is great at making films based on another person’s IP, I much prefer in-house creations. Sadly, the future slate doesn’t show upcoming originals. Maybe after 2026, there’ll be fresh new ideas to entertain audiences with.
3½ Stars out of 5