Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is directed by Kirk DeMicco and Faryn Pearl and stars Lana Condor who voices the title character. Ruby Gillman is a kraken, depicted in the film as an affable sea monster who becomes a giant when she’s in the sea. Toni Collette plays her mother, a kraken attempting to succeed as a real estate agent in the human world, and Jane Fonda plays her grandmother, a kraken who wishes Ruby would rule the sea with her. But as prom approaches, Ruby awkwardly attempts to navigate her high school friend group, her crush (voiced by Jaboukie Young-White), and her identity as a kraken.
Ideally, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken might have the same metaphorical or emotional weight as Turning Red (2022), but it’s closer to Mean Girls (2004), and it’s not even particularly good at depicting those relationships. Part of the problem is structural: there are two giant exposition dumps, which make it difficult for kids trying to follow along. Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken’s plot is needlessly convoluted, and the villain turn at the end feels painfully rote. Long music montages set to pop songs punctuate the film’s plot beats, and the music choices are like a teacher sitting backwards on a chair – an adult trying to really hard to relate to children.
Even the premise – a kraken making her way as a normal teenage girl in the human world – requires a mind-numbing stretch of credulity: Ruby and her family tell everyone that they look different because they’re from Canada. Do they all believe that all Canadians are blue? Really? Someone ought to tell Jim Carrey, William Shatner, Joni Mitchell, and all the other great famous Canadians who are ubiquitous in American culture.
Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken isn’t all bad – just mostly. There is some good animation, and the portrayal of teenage awkwardness works more often than not. But in a family film marketplace that includes Elemental and Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken fails to distinguish itself.