Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken (2023) Movie Review – This isn’t all it’s kraken’ed up to be

This Isn’t All It’s Kraken’ed Up To Be

DreamWorks animation is usually quite hit or miss at the best of times. For every Shrek and How To Drain Your Dragon, there’s a Flushed Away or a Home; films with potential that never quite live up to their billing.

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is unfortunately more of the latter than the former. There’s some lovely animation here, a few good chuckles and a likable group of diverse characters. But for all the colour and pizzazz this film tries to conjure, the narrative remains a dull shade of grey. In fact, the story is so cookie cutter that at times it’s borderline lackadaisical.

The best comparison film here is A Shark Tale; a niche little movie that’s likely to be drowned out by better options in this field. And that’s a real shame because this movie does have potential, but it’s never fully realized.

The story centers on teen girl Ruby Gillman. Her family live in the quaint little town of Oceanside, and have managed to carve themselves out a pretty good life. Ruby’s mum is a real estate agent, her father does live-streams, and her bubbly brother is the typical younger sibling who’s one big hyperactive ball of mischief. So what’s the problem? Well, it turns out the entire family are actually Krakens disguised as humans.

That’s right, those fearsome ocean-dwelling monsters are actually just misunderstood beings, and this family have decided to hide in plain sight amongst us. Ruby and her brother are unaware of this though, and have been told to stay away from the ocean no matter what.

As fate would have it, prom is coming up and Ruby is desperate to go with heartthrob Connor. However, when Connor ends up falling in the ocean after a prom proposal gone wrong, Ruby dives in after to try and save him. In doing so, she awakens her hidden Kraken powers, while simultaneously discovering a mermaid called Chelsea, who becomes the most popular girl in school.

As Ruby starts to understand her powers, and contend with Chelsea, Ruby realizes her destiny lies deep in the depths of the ocean. However, what Ruby finds there is more shocking than even she could have imagined.

The narrative zigs and zags, managing to conjure up some very memorable and humorous characters, like a sea captain and his trusty mute crab sidekick, but never quite does enough to really flesh them out and give compelling narrative arcs.

There’s a coming of age fable in here too for Ruby, with the parallels of puberty likened to Ruby getting her Kraken powers. This is handled quite well, but then you have the “romance” with Connor, which is completely sidelined for most of the plot. There’s also the usual “protagonist betrays friend circle to hang out with cool kid” trope, the big, epic fight at the end, and the usual ending you’d expect from a film like this. But all the while, you end up waiting for an emotional pay-off that never comes.

Instead, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken feels more like a potpourri of various ideas, all thrown in together in the hopes of making something work. And that’s before even mentioning the array of pop song montages and a few glaring plot contrivances.

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is not an essential watch, nor is it anywhere near the lofty standards we’ve seen DreamWorks set in the past. If you have kids, then it’s certainly worth a trip to the cinema on a rainy afternoon. The film doesn’t mess about with its breezy 90 minute run-time, and the plot moves quickly enough that your little ones are unlikely to get angsty and restless. Beyond that though, this film isn’t all it’s kraken’ed up to be.

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  • Verdict - 5.5/10

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