RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN

★★

DREAMWORKS' LATEST CATCH ISN'T TOO FRESH

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Liz Chan
3rd September 2023

Ruby Gillman is awkward, blue and, most importantly, Canadian.

DreamWorks embraces the wacky with stylised animation to create the world of Ruby Gillman (Lana Condor, 'To All The Boys I've Loved Before' franchise), a teenager who just wants to fit in. Her family resides in a seaside town where the myths of a kraken float through and school activities regularly involve the open sea, which Ruby is forbidden from for reasons unknown. She has bigger problems on her mind! Getting her cool crush to go to prom with her and blending in, which can be hard when you're a shade of azure blue compared to your human peers. "I'm Canadian!" is the explanation she commits to mind and repeats like a mantra to those who look at her flailing limbs and complexion a little funny.

'Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken' is Dreamworks' latest take on a classic child-friendly coming-of-age story, deftly hitting all the necessary beats within an attention span testing 90-minute runtime. Filling the shoes (boots) of the charming and evocative 'Puss in Boots: The Last Wish' (2023) was always going to be a difficult task, but 'Ruby' struggles to meet its studio predecessor halfway, sinking with an all-too-familiar storyline.

'SWITCH': 'RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN' TRAILER 2

When Ruby jumps into the sea during an accident, she discovers the gills she has been inexplicably hiding without question actually serve a purpose... she's a kraken! A teenage kraken, if you will. Pixar's tried and tested 'Turning Red' beats have been quickly scrawled on hand with a ballpoint pen that has since gotten wet and very smudged – listed out methodically as Ruby rampages through town as a giant panda (kraken) and has a loving yet conflicted relationship with her mother, Agatha (Toni Collette, 'Knives Out') who is also a giant panda (kraken) with mummy issues. Except in this case, the lore behind her kraken-ness has to do with a royal bloodline that has been hidden from her. Grandmamah (Jane Fonda, 'Book Club' franchise, Netflix's 'Grace and Frankie') is keen for Ruby to take her place in royalty, but Ruby is not too sure.

'Ruby Gillman's' strongest asset is its voice-cast, with the affable Lana Condor handling Ruby's teenage coming-of-age with equal angst and awkward enthusiasm and Annie Murphy playing the most fashionable and cool mermaid, Chelsea.

As she grapples with her kraken coming-of-age, the popular new girl at school, Chelsea Van Der Zee (Annie Murphy, TV's 'Schitt's Creek') shows an interest in seawater and a newfound friendship with Ruby. As their stories intertwine and lead up to a big fight over a magic trident, Ruby discovers who she is and reconnects with her family.

'Ruby Gillman's' strongest asset is its voice-cast, with the affable Lana Condor handling Ruby's teenage coming-of-age with equal angst and awkward enthusiasm and Annie Murphy playing the most fashionable and cool mermaid, Chelsea. The film also plays with a sweet message of self-acceptance and, combined with its saturated colour palette and glowing visuals imagined by director Kirk DeMicco ('The Croods', 'Vivo') and his crew, will surely keep primary-aged kids on an excursion entertained just enough for its 90-minute runtime. However, 'Ruby' fails to bring to the table a fresh enough catch to cement itself into a memorable movie in the DreamWorks Animations hall of children's classics.

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