Animated Movie

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken

“Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken” is a cheerful, colorful animated film about a shy, academically gifted young girl with a protective mother and devoted friends who transforms into a huge creature as a metaphor for adolescence, with multi-generational conflicts. Yes, it is similar to the terrific “Turning Red,” but this story has its own delights. One of the best family films of the year, “Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken” has humor and heart, buoyant energy, witty and imaginative visuals, and never-less-than brilliant voice talent.  

Ruby (Lana Condor) and her family live in a coastal village called Oceanside. Her mother, Agatha (Toni Collette), is a successful realtor, her father, Arthur (Colman Domingo), runs a gift shop, and she has an energetic little brother Sam (Blue Chapman). Ruby does not look like the other kids at school. She’s blue. And where a human’s hair should be, she has something fishy. Agatha tells her to explain that the family is from Canada, which seems to satisfy everyone. Her mother also cautions that she can never go in the water or even on a boat. That puts a lot of limits on her social life in a beach-centric town. 

Ruby has a crush on Connor (Jaboukie Young-White), a boy she’s tutoring in math, but she cannot find the nerve to invite him to the prom. When he falls into the ocean, though, she impulsively jumps in to rescue him. And then, well, you saw the title. Her transformation leads to connections to relatives on her mother’s side of the family she never knew existed, including Uncle Brill (the always-delightful Sam Richardson) and a deliciously imperious grandmother Kraken queen (voiced by Jane Fonda) known as Grandmamah (emphasis on the third syllable, please). 

At first, Ruby is shocked and embarrassed by her Kraken-hood. But thanks to Grandmamah’s encouragement, and a new bestie classmate, Ruby sees how her new abilities have the potential for doing good. The new friend is the instantly popular new girl at school, Chelsea Van Der Zee (Annie Murphy of “Schitt’s Creek”). They have something in common. They are both sea creatures; Chelsea is a mermaid. Grandmamah has told Ruby about the war between the Kraken and the mermaids, but Ruby thinks her friendship with Chelsea could lead to a new era of peace and unity. 

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