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HomeReviewsHollywood Movie ReviewRuby Gillman: Teenage Kraken: DreamWorks Animation Is Sweet yet Shallow

Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken: DreamWorks Animation Is Sweet yet Shallow


It’s hard to be disappointed with a movie like this Ruby Gilman, Teenage Kraken. In a year that, with a few notable exceptions, has been relatively light on solid animated fare, there’s something nice about taking on such a largely sweet story. In many ways, considering the release from Pixar this year has been pretty formulaic, it looks like it could emerge as one of the stronger studio animations of 2023, like Something Terrible. turning red. Alas, though not always defined by formula, it frequently feels derivative and slight without time to dive deep into its foundations. The characters are consistently charming, the humor is silly enough, and the animation is often beautiful, though the standard path it takes completely backs off from exploring the potential lurking beneath the surface. The film is at its best when it breaks free at the end.

The latest animation from DreamWorks, the studio behind the extravaganza How to Train Your Dragon The film and was last year’s surprise hit Puss in Boots: The Last Wish It follows awkward yet ambitious Ruby Gilman (Lana Condor) as he tries to survive the normal challenges faced by teenagers. Namely, she wants to ask her crush, Zabuki Young-WhiteIts dreamy yet underachieving skater Connor, off to prom. Although he isn’t nearly as meek as her, the fact that he harbors feelings for her seems promising. The only problem? Ruby is not like other kids her age.

Namely, he’s Kraken in disguise. his parents, Toni ColletteIts Agatha and Coleman DomingoIts Arthur, lovable though often rambunctious as they tell him he can’t go to the prom because it’s on the water he’s forbidden to go to. The cover story they provide makes them suspect that they are not They are who they say they are, ie Will FortIts Captain Ahab-esque Gordon Lighthouse, they’re actually from Canada. This excuse, occasionally punctuated by Eh, holds enough water to keep the family living a secret life in their sleepy town by the sea. However, when Ruby must jump into those waters to save Connor after a well-intentioned proposal goes awry, her cover may soon be blown as she becomes a giant version of herself swept up in a generational conflict.

‘Ruby Gilman, Teenage Kraken’ mostly plays it safe

Lana Condor as Ruby Gilman and Zabuki Young-White as Connor in Ruby Gilman, Teenage Kraken.
Image via DreamWorks

While it hardly stops short of everything revealed in the film’s trailer, providing more detail would detract from an already familiar experience. We get to know others from Ruby’s extended family, viz Sam Richardson Its uncle Brill and Jane Fonda Its grandmother who is a fleeting character is similarly amusing, but there is a general sense that the film is treading water. Is it about Ruby navigating the issues of young love as well as figuring out who she is? Not really that Connor almost completely disappears from the film until he’s brought back near the end. OK, so how does that element about Ruby find out who she is? This is the basis for both the humor and the heart of the film, creating a few moments towards the conclusion when the teenager takes charge, though it still floats in the water.

It doesn’t wash out completely, but it still needs to weather some stormy narrative developments that don’t land as well as they should. Ruby is a popular new classmate and has an initial interaction with the mermaid Chelsea van der Zee, voiced by Annie Murphy of recent series Kevin can f**k himself The same is half-baked and makes twists that can be seen coming from across the vast ocean.

However, the real tension Ruby must navigate is with her mother. This is the real emotional core of the film where everyone tries to understand where each of them is coming from. Whereas much of the rest of the film is too broadly sketched to draw us in, it pulls us in deeper when needed. Collette is no stranger to playing characters that involve fraught family dynamics, as that has been the focus of her last three projects. Mafia uncle, powerAnd real estate respectively Ruby Gilman, Teenage Kraken They fall somewhere in between, with broad strokes occasionally giving way to something more precise. His character is involved in a profession that veers dangerously close to a weird trend in animated stories where they inexplicably reduce magic to the mundane in search of comedic comedic returns.

Thankfully, when the film takes us deeper into the ocean and really explores more of where the characters are coming from, it finds something interesting as its many parts come together. The journey is surprisingly limited, with little exploration of the underwater world and a tacked-on magical MacGuffin feel added to give it something to aim for. Still, once it reaches its dynamic destination, it actually starts to feel quite a bit more directed and fun.

‘Ruby Gilman, Teenage Kraken’ pokes light fun at Disney’s ‘The Lit

tle Mermaid’
Lana Condor as Ruby Gilman and Annie Murphy as Chelsea Van Der Zee in Teenage Kraken's Ruby Gilman.Image via DreamWorks
As for said destination, there’s a hint of what could be a more interesting undercurrent in how it twists a familiar thing. Without going into too much detail, the ending of the film plays out almost like a funhouse mirror version of the original ending little mermaid.
Unfortunately it’s not that dark, as it’s one of many modern animated films that feels like it’s stuck, but it has a lot of fun doing what it does. Even the reveal that sets it in motion left a lot to be desired in how it was executed, the way the ending is basically an extended spectacle of a gag is good fun. It’s not sharp enough to create a more vigorous satire of Disney’s mermaid tale, but it’s cheeky enough to create a playful skewering that still manages to cut quite a bit deep.


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