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“Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken” Swims Past The Goal But Has Heart


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In a rush of new animation, DreamWorks Animation returns to the competition in a brand new film, Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken. The story centers on a young teenage kraken, Ruby, whose family resides in Oceanside as they attempt to blend in with the rest of the humans. In an attempt to fit in, Ruby accidentally discovers that she is kraken royalty and that her family helped defeat the ruthless and power hungry mermaids in a battle from long ago. Rather than let the rivalry continue, she attempts to mend the relationship between krakens and mermaids…but at what cost?

Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken can be best described as DreamWorks’ attempt at throwing their hat into the ring when it comes to films focused on generational trauma. At the same time, it manages to pull in the essences of Pixar’s Turning Red and Luca, with similar themes and plot devices used to push the story along. And while the film puts effort into creating something unique, it comes off a bit flat and predictable. Many of the relationships showcased become exactly what we expect as the audience and while predictability isn’t a bad thing, it doesn’t really benefit the film overall. There isn’t much that leads you on path only to unveil the great twist that is intended to make you at least somewhat surprised. 

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Jane Fonda voices Grandmamah and Lana Condor voices Ruby Gillman in “RUBY GILLMAN: TEENAGE KRAKEN”. All Rights Reserved by Dreamworks Animation.

Throughout the film, there are attempts to tackle the topic of generational trauma, but it almost becomes a forgotten theme that is barely touched upon. If anything, it comes across more of a story that discusses a teenager simply trying to be a teenager while discovering royal powers by happenstance. There isn’t much emotional depth that is brought to the relationships amongst the family, and perhaps, that is for the best. For a film that is clearly written for younger audiences with very few genuinely good jokes and decent moments for adults, it might be best to leave the generational trauma trope to those who understand it.

However, some of the better moments within the film put an emphasis on the concept of honesty between parents and children. It’s a constant storyline that is seen in films where parents will omit information from their children as a form of protection. But as to be expected, this only encourages them to break rules or seek out information that won’t be given to them. This is seen heavily in the relationship between Ruby and her mother, and it’s something that deserves discussion as something that does happen often between parents and their children. Given that the film is very much intended for younger audiences, the way this concept is relayed is simplified but still very well-explained and portrayed throughout the film. 

Lana Condor voices Ruby Gillman in “RUBY GILLMAN: TEENAGE KRAKEN”. All Rights Reserved by Dreamworks Animation.

Visually, Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken can be stunning at times. There’s a mild use of 2D animation that is scattered across the film but ends up being severely underused. With 2D animation becoming more scarce, it would have been delightful to see a better use of the animation style as a way to enhance the storytelling overall. That isn’t to say the rest of the film isn’t vibrant or fun to look at. There are various moments that are vibrant and colorful, particularly when the film takes us around Oceanside which is perfectly designed as the ideal cozy, seaside town. 

As far as animated films go, this isn’t exactly DreamWorks’ best work so far, and feels far more predictable than expected and not in the best way. There are themes that are handled well and some that would have been better left alone. However, Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken provides enjoyable animation in various moments that is pleasing to the eyes. For a film that is directed primarily toward younger audiences, I highly recommend taking kids to see this fun and adventurous movie. And if you love animation or DreamWorks, give this one a shot. While it misses the mark at some points, there is still some heart that is to be found in a movie like this.

Samosa Rating:  

Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken receives 3 out of 5 Samosas. 

Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken is now streaming on Netflix.
Runtime: 1h 30m

If you want even more film discussions, reviews, or just some good old recommendations, be sure to follow @samosasandpopcorn on TikTok!

Pooja Chand
Pooja Chand
Known on other platforms as Samosas and Popcorn, Pooja is a movie enthusiast topped with sprinkles of her love for TV. She can typically be found watching anything from the latest blockbuster movie to a feel good anime, and is always ready to start the discussion on movies and TV so you don't have to.

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