Ruby Gillman is a quiet and clumsy teenager who, after disobeying her overprotective mother, discovers that she is a descendant of the kraken warrior queens. The krakens are sworn to protect the world’s oceans from vain, power-hungry sirens. Heartbroken, Ruby is forced to use her newfound powers to protect her own.
Forget everything you’ve seen and read about krakens, those terrifying sea creatures said to be responsible for many shipwrecks. It doesn’t matter that this myth has been in the imagination of Nordic peoples for centuries, the animation studio DreamWorks (Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Puss in Boots) tackles it in an amusing proposal directed by Kirk DeMicco (Vivo, The Croods) and Faryn Pearl (The Croods: A New Age, Trolls World Tour) where the roles are reversed. Krakens don’t sink boats, they’re protectors of the ocean, while mermaids aren’t as sweet and naive as Disney made us believe.
Ruby Gillman (Lana Condor) descends from a royal line of krakens. But she doesn’t know it yet. His mother Agatha (Toni Collette) left the depths 15 years ago to provide a better life for her children, whom she forbids from approaching the ocean. This family is out of place, with its blue skin and ears shaped like caudal fins, but when pointed out to them, its members reply that they are from Canada, which surprisingly closes the file! However, Ruby wishes to be a teenager like the others, to attract attention, but not too much, and to attend the prom with Connor, an evening which must be held on a boat and which her mother strongly disapproves of.
Ruby’s efforts to blend in will fail when she transforms into a giant kraken upon contact with the ocean. Slowly coming to terms with her identity, she will meet her Grandmamah (Jane Fonda), the warrior queen of the Seven Seas, who will try to convince her to accept her destiny, and Chelsea (Annie Murphy), a newcomer to the school. who will turn out to be a mermaid with a physique modeled on the cartoon Ariel.
Family secrets, destructive powers repressed by prohibitions, the fear of being different and the desire to free oneself from one’s parents: the parallels with the red panda of Red Alert, a very successful film from Disney and Pixar released in 2022, are inevitable. Those with the young sea monster Luca too, to a lesser extent.
Although funny and very likeable, the story developed around Ruby Gillman is less accomplished than that of Meilin Lee’s ancestors. Even if it takes us to the depths of the abyss, the script signed by Pam Brady (producer of South Park), Brian C Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi never strays from the surface, prisoner of its obligation to keep two ideas afloat. . Revisiting the mythology of krakens and mermaids is a very interesting premise that would have deserved to be further explored, but which is overshadowed by this coming and going with the mainland. The reasons for the rivalry between the two clans are quickly evacuated, just like the third act, a magnificent fight, but eminently predictable and whose outcome is precipitated.
Nevertheless, Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken brings us to meet endearing characters that the voices of Lana Condor, Toni Colette and Jane Fonda render well. The animation is traditional, but the underwater images are visually dazzling with their candy colors that contrast with the darkness of the abyss and the very plain soundtrack.
Note that this is the first DreamWorks film where the heroine is a woman. In fact, among the krakens of this revisited universe, only women grow up and are endowed with powers. Ruby Gillman is unlikely to dethrone the studio’s past heroes, but her strengths, vulnerability, and easily identifiable personality will certainly appeal to the young audience the film is aimed at.