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Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Tracy Brown

Movie review: Cheekily titled, ‘Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken’ is an easy, breezy, entertaining watch

When we’re growing up, there are many times when we feel a little monstrous.

For many of us, it happens around adolescence: bodies are changing, emotions are huge. And because we’re trying to figure everything out, we can’t help but notice how different we are.

That’s probably why there’s no shortage of coming-of-age stories that use monsters as metaphors. The latest entry in this genre, “Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken,” blends teenage angst with a fun and vibrant take on sea-creature lore that subverts fairy-tale expectations.

Directed by Kirk DeMicco, the animated movie follows Ruby Gillman (voiced by Lana Condor), a teen kraken who lives among humans in a seaside town. Sweet and relatably awkward, Ruby is a 16-year-old mathlete with a lovingly overprotective mom (Toni Collette), a crew of loyal friends (Liza Koshy, Ramona Young, Eduardo Franco) and a crush (Jaboukie Young-White) who‘s not as unattainable as she might believe.

A key Gillman family rule is to never go into the ocean. But when Ruby breaks it to save her favorite skater boy, she discovers a family secret: She’s kraken royalty. Not only that, Ruby learns that the kraken are warriors who protect the sea from their rivals, such as the vain and power-hungry mermaids.

At a moment when animated family features are often adaptations of existing intellectual property or additions to a franchise, “Ruby Gillman” stands out as an original story, something to be lauded. Exactly how original is another question: While watching “Ruby,” it’s impossible not to think of other recent animated films such as Pixar’s “Luca,” a fish-out-of-water tale featuring young sea monsters, or “Turning Red,” a panda puberty story involving mother-daughter tensions.

“Ruby Gillman” is also clearly in conversation with a certain animated classic from 1989 about a young redheaded mermaid princess who dreams of walking among humans. (Flipping the script on fairy tales is a bit of a DreamWorks signature.)

Still, as predictable as the movie often is, it’s elevated by Condor’s disarming and charming Ruby, and some vivid character designs. The luminous undersea kraken kingdom is also quite a sight.

Lighter in emotional stakes than other animated films released this month (“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” “Elemental”), “Ruby Gillman” will likely appeal to younger audiences — and to their parents seeking a beach read of a movie.


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