About halfway through Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken it occurred to me that I had recently seen another film about a teenager discovering she has the ability to change into a large monster. Pixar’s 2022 release Turning Red has nearly the exact same premise, albeit landlocked, and I’m not entirely surprised. Monster movies have long been considered helpful allegories for the teenage experience of puberty, and after Twilight sterilized the horror genre it should come as no surprise to see animated family films adopting these narratives too. That being said, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken doesn’t do much to elevate the formula, nor does the animation prove particularly innovative or impressive.
At the beginning of the film, Ruby (voiced by Lana Condor) is just an ordinary high school student, other than the fact that she must hide her sea creature origin. Ruby’s family immigrated from the ocean and has been living on the land because of a past her mother (Toni Collette) doesn’t like to talk about. After years of being warned not to go into the ocean, Ruby discovers her royal lineage as a kraken when she first enters the sea and turns into one of the giant sea creatures while at school. This throws the entire community into chaos and forces Ruby to come to terms with her heritage.
In hopes of finding a solution to her problems, Ruby goes into the sea to find her grandmother (Jane Fonda), a powerful kraken who has spent her life protecting the world from other monstrous threats. At the very top of the list are mermaids, who are apparently far more menacing than humanity has imagined. But when Ruby discovers her new classmate Chelsea Van Der Zee (Annie Murphy) is a mermaid, she decides to trust the sworn enemy of the kraken to attempt to have a normal teenage high school experience.
Ruby Gillman is inoffensive family entertainment, however unoriginal and forgettable much of it may be. With so many innovative animated films being released in recent years, DreamWorks Animation is going to have to do better than this. Along with the story resembling better films, the animation feels overly simplistic compared to the style championed by other studios. It isn’t even bad enough to be memorable.
The Blu-ray release of Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken comes with three ways to watch the film; the high-definition disc, a DVD copy, and a code for a digital copy. The special features include deleted scenes and a handful of lighthearted promotional featurettes. If the special features mostly feel directed at a younger audience, that may be because that is the target audience for a movie like this. They still haven’t seen enough movies to know how generic this one is.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 3/10
Special Features: 4/10