Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken review: "A playful reversal of mythical expectations"

Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken
(Image: © Universal)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

A much-vilified creature gets a fitfully entertaining makeover in this playful reversal of mythical expectations.

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‘Your body’s going through changes’ soothes the well-meaning father of this DreamWorks animation’s awkward teenage heroine. Well, that’s one way of putting it. After jumping into the sea to save a boy from drowning, insecure mathlete Ruby (Lana Condor) discovers that she’s a kraken – a huge, tentacled sea beast with bioluminescent skin, laser eyes, and an imposing grandmother (Jane Fonda) who reigns supreme over her underwater queendom.

Turns out Ruby’s mum (Toni Collette) has been hiding her brood on land since her daughter’s childhood to prevent them being sucked into an ‘interspecies vendetta’ with the krakens’ sworn enemies. And who might they be? Why, mermaids of course – ‘selfish, vain narcissists’ (according to granny) who’ll use any ruse to get their hands on a fabled trident that decrees who rules both above and below the waves.

Cannily timed to surface in the wake of Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid, Kirk DeMicco and Faryn Pearl’s spirited caper clearly has that saga’s winsome Ariel in its crosshairs. And, at least until its Turning Red-ish plot becomes subsumed by a tiresome showdown finale, there’s a lot to take pleasure from here - not least the invertebrate protagonists’ amusing elasticity, which recalls the madcap fun of Tex Avery’s cartoon classics.

‘I’m not evil,’ pleads Chelsea Van Der Zee (Annie Murphy), a red-headed mermaid who becomes Ruby’s bestie. ‘I’m just pretty and misunderstood!’ Vivid visuals are standard in the computer-animation marketplace, but this is one example of the genre that can boast a smattering of genuine wit.

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is in UK and US cinemas on June 30. 

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Freelance Writer

Neil Smith is a freelance film critic who has written for several publications, including Total Film. His bylines can be found at the BBC, Film 4 Independent, Uncut Magazine, SFX Magazine, Heat Magazine, Popcorn, and more.