Sweet, awkward 16-year-old Ruby Gillman (Lana Condor, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before franchise) is desperate to fit in at Oceanside High, but she mostly just feels invisible. She’s math-tutoring her skater-boy crush (Jaboukie Young-White, Ralph Breaks the Internet), who only seems to admire her for her fractals, and she’s prevented from hanging out with the cool kids at the beach because her over-protective supermom (Oscar® nominee Toni Collette, Knives Out), has forbade Ruby from ever getting in the water. But when she breaks her mom’s #1 rule, Ruby will discover that she is a direct descendant of the warrior Kraken queens and is destined to inherit the throne from her commanding grandmother (Academy Award® winner Jane Fonda), the Warrior Queen of the Seven Seas. The Kraken are sworn to protect the oceans of the world against the vain, power-hungry mermaids who have been battling with the Kraken for eons. There’s one major, and immediate, problem with that: The school’s beautiful, popular new girl, Chelsea (Emmy winner Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek) just happens to be a mermaid. Ruby will ultimately need to embrace who she is and go big to protect those she loves most.
Of all the metaphors for body transformation that will fit the teen years, Kraken is the most appropriate for the emotional and physical changes of both boys and girls. It’s straightforward, neutral, and asexual— it applies to both sexes. If you want to have a bit of “period” fun, than you can describe a girl experiencing their first menstruation as a Red Panda, Turning Red. That’s the cutesy Disney way that will force many unwanted child-parent conversations on what the title means. So, I anticipated that Ruby Gillman Teenage Kraken to take the inoffensive middle. It didn’t disappoint me there. Ruby Gillman is a movie that doesn’t want to explain. it just wants to have fun.
Ruby (Lana Condor) aspires only to be a typical teen minus the body messes, angst and hormonal confusion. The plot marches her towards a parody of Disney’s Little Mermaid. Here, the Krakens are good creatures who protect the oceans from the narcissistic mermaids who want to bend all fishy things to their will. Ruby’s mother, Agatha (Toni Collette), in a state of adolescent rebellion and independence, rejected her royal heritage (Jane Fonda plays her mother, the Queen Kraken) for a normal life among the land locked humans. Agatha is a mom of two with an aspiring real estate business devoted entirely to beachside properties. Krakens like Mogwais only become monsters when exposed to water. They still need the sea mist to keep from drying out. There blue skin is talked away to the curious by telling them their Canadians. Ruby unaware of her heritage, is told never to go in the water or swim.
The requisite human- Kraken romance never blossoms beyond a crush. The evil mermaid, assuming the guise of the red headed most popular school girl, matches with the sea witch Ursula from The Little Mermaid. Reunion and reconciliation between Kraken and mermaids proves an illusion. The Ariels can’t let go of their narcissism and jealousy and refuse to play fair. Their pretty, marketable and every bit the parody of most social media influencers.
The big battle between Krakens and mermaids is nice-
neon-lit, swooping depiction of controlled chaos.
Ruby Gillman never attempts to punch above its weight. It’s here to tell a story, which it does simply and well, and that’s it.
Ruby Gillman Teenage Kraken gets a 3.5 out of 5 or a B+. It’s streaming on Peacock.
- Pam Brady
- Brian C. Brown
- Elliott DiGuiseppi
Kelly Cooney Cilella
- June 15, 2023(Annecy)
- June 30, 2023(United States)