Anyone seeing Michael Jackson’s thriller video might remember him uttering the line, ‘I’m not like other guys’ shortly before he transforms into….well in the case of that famous music video it was a werewolf and though it’s a line that could also have been used by Bacofoil clad, botox battered, glam rocker Gary Glitter, it would have been a relief if he had turned out to be a werewolf. But schoolgirl Ruby Gillman is not like other girls and deep down she’s always felt different from the other and it’s the film’s title Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken that is the giveaway as to just how different she is
A frantic and slightly confusing first act sets the premise with her real estate mum, chef father and playful younger brother shown to be a family of krakens, monstrous animals who should be consigned to living at the bottom of the ocean in much the same way as the Kardashians should but have now made their home on land and seamlessly assimilated into human society and lived a low key lifestyle not drawing attention to themselves. But teenager Ruby finds her mum is strict with her and especially keen to enforce one condition – namely that Ruby stays out of the water at all costs.
Inevitably that rule is ignored when her schoolgirl crush, the boy she wants to take her to the prom, falls into the sea and she dives into rescue him and finding why her mother wants her away from the water as she now turns into a giant fluorescent, spineless, tentacled monsters in much the same way as the Kardashians do when a TV crew switch on their cameras. Ruby is royalty, kraken royalty and it’s something that her kraken sea swelling grandmother (Jane Fonda) reminds her. In a neat inversion of stereotypes her grandmother reveals that it is mermaids who are the challenging the deep sea harmony rather than the traditionally aggressive kraken
Like the best animated films, notably from Pixars stable, there’s more going on beneath the surface and the subtext here is similar to that of Pixar’s Turning Red and an adolescent girl dealing with her changing body although the film’s intended audience is more obviously tweenies who would likely be unaware of the hormonal changes ahead. But Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is terrific fun with an engaging central character that’s easy to identify with and the bond between mums and daughters battling with conflicting emotions before Ruby transforms from a shy teen into a fierce and proud kraken. Whether this will find an audience in the thick of the summer blockbusters is hard to discern but at a 90 minutes this is well worth fishing around for.
related feature: Turning Red review
Here’s the Ruby Gillman Teenage Kraken trailer……