Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken Parent Guide
This film is adequate but it lacks surprise or enchantment.
Parent Movie Review
Ruby Gillman (Lana Condor) is a competitive math whiz (“mathlete”), loyal member of her friend squad, and conscientious rule-follower. Although she lives near the beach, she obeys her parents’ strict ban against ever going into the sea. She also does her best to be invisible, ascribing her blue skin to being Canadian. The truth is much harder to believe: Ruby is a kraken.
Fans of maritime literature will recognize krakens as fearsome sea monsters, prone to destroying ships and killing unlucky sailors. As we learn, this is “fake news”: the kraken are really guardians of the ocean, destined to protect the watery world from all manners of monsters, especially cunning, power-hungry mermaids.
Ruby learns the truth when her crush, Connor (Jaboukie Young-White) falls into the surf and she’s the only one close enough to rescue him. She undergoes an astonishing transformation, growing to vast size, adding an extra leg, and turning a glowing pinkish-purple color. Subsequent underwater visits bring her into contact with her Grandmamah (Jane Fonda), the Queen of the Krakens. Soon Ruby’s desire to learn the full truth and flex her powers conflicts with her own wish to live as a normal teenager and her mother’s determination to protect her from the turmoil of the deeps. Throw in a crafty mermaid, a magical trident, a curmudgeonly kraken-hunting sailor, and a prom cruise, and the scene is set for an aquatic showdown…
There aren’t a lot of surprises in this DreamWorks production. It’s vaguely disappointing that the studio that produced Shrek can’t come up with a quirkier angle on a story that’s just crying out for a less pedestrian approach. I don’t mean that Ruby Gillman is a bad film. It’s fine. Just fine. The characters are clearly drawn, the animation is bright and appealing, and the voice talent is excellent – particularly Jane Fonda as Grandmamah. (Considering Ms. Fonda’s dreadful roles this past year, maybe she should stick to voice acting in future.) The movie even delivers solid lessons about self-acceptance, the benefits of diversity, and the power of family legacies. What’s missing is the element of surprise, or perhaps enchantment.
Youngsters will probably enjoy watching the movie, but it won’t give parents the kind of comic jolt that comes from, say, The Incredibles or Shrek. This is an adequate choice for 90 air-conditioned minutes in a theater with the kids, but I think you’re better off waiting until it streams and spending your hard-earned money on a more exciting summer blockbuster. (Elemental and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse are both better films and are still playing in theaters.)
If your kids have seen the trailer and are clamoring to see the film, you can be assured that there is very little negative content aside from dramatic body transformation and some fairly extensive scenes of fantasy violence, none of which feel terribly perilous (at least to me). Parents will note that one of Ruby’s friends is a lesbian and there’s a brief moment where two girls kiss in the background. Whether you see this as a plus or not will depend entirely on your views on sexuality and diverse representation. Frankly, I think it will go right over the heads of most young moviegoers who will be fascinated by the underwater drama. Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken might not be the catch of the day, but it gives families a reasonably safe entertainment option and that’s not nothing.
Directed by Kirk DeMicco, Faryn Pearl. Starring Lana Condor, Annie Murphy, Jane Fonda. Running time: 90 minutes. Theatrical release June 30, 2023. Updated June 29, 2023
Watch the trailer for Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken
Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken
Rating & Content Info
Why is Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken rated PG? Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is rated PG by the MPAA for some action, rude humor and thematic elements
Violence: There are frequent scenes of fantasy violence in which characters are thrown, hit, trapped by rocks, zapped with eye lasers, and menaced with a trident. A human character nearly drowns. Harpoons are fired at a main character. A building is accidentally destroyed when a character transforms into a much bigger creature.
Sexual Content: A girl announces that she’s going to prom with another girl and is later seen dancing with her. Two girls are briefly seen kissing in the background of a scene. A girl kisses a boy on the cheek.
Profanity: “Dumb” is used as an insult on a few occasions.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None.
Page last updated June 29, 2023
Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken Parents' Guide
Why does Ruby’s mother insist on raising her children on land? Do you think she made the right decision? Do you think it’s possible for Ruby to live on the land and fulfil her role as a kraken leader at the same time or do you think she’s going to have to make a choice at some point?
How does this movie’s depictions of mermaids contrast with the prevailing cinematic portrayal? Do you think this adds extra tension or humor to the story?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Young readers who want to get to know a sea monster for themselves can read Lula and the Sea Monster by Alex Latimer. Young readers will also appreciate Monsters in the Briny which features a kraken, a sea serpent, and a giant tortoise. Written by Lynn Becker and illustrated by Scott Brundage, this book rollicks along to a sea shanty rhythm.
Young readers who want ocean adventures and lots of pictures will appreciate The Sea Monster by Kyle Lukoff and Kat Uno.
Chapter book readers will enjoy the excitement of Mary Pope Osborne’s Summer of the Sea Serpent, the third of the Magic Tree House Merlin Missions series.
Kids who want to know about the real world creatures who live in the deep will learn a lot from National Geographic Kids Weird Sea Creatures by Laura Marsh. They can also check out Scary Sea Creatures by Madelyn Ovelia Marthers.
Related home video titles:
Luca is the story of a sea monster who’s curious about life on land. When he leaves the water, he transforms into a human and has a chance to make friends, develop a passion for Vespas, and learn about the wider world.
In Turning Red, MeiMei discovers that she has inherited an unusual family trait – she transforms into a giant red panda when she feels strong emotion.
After Jacob Holland finds a young stowaway on his monster-hunting ship, they find themselves learning a lot about the feared denizens of the deeps in The Sea Beast.
A young orphaned boy goes on the run from his powerful grandfather in Kubo and the Two Strings.