As a kid, I remember vividly being an awkward teen trying to fit in after transferring into new schools. The awkwardness continued into college after transferring from an all-white institution into ‘The Mecca” aka Howard University. You never feel quite cool enough for the cool kids, nor for that one person who all you want is to be noticed. But, what would happen if they all found out you had a special secret that has been both a blessing and a curse in your family for centuries?
Ruby Gillman would know this all too well. Sweet and awkward, Ruby (Lana Condor) discovers she’s a direct descendant of the warrior kraken queens sworn to protect the oceans of the world against the vain, power-hungry mermaids. Destined to inherit the throne from her commanding grandmother, (Jane Fonda) Ruby must use her newfound powers to protect those she loves most.
The ocean is a mysterious world where you think you know what lies beneath. Being told time and time again not to let water hit her, Ruby accidentally falls into that mysterious world. Yet, the whole time, I couldn’t help thinking that maybe Black women have a little kraken action going on, because we are not trying to get anywhere near water – especially if we just got our hair done. Just sayin’…
Directed by Kirk DeMicco alongside co-director Faryn Pearl, this animated fantasy take us into the world of the mysterious underwater dwellers like mermaids and krakens to explore their mythology and conflict. Krakens have been portrayed as monstrous creatures to be feared at all costs while mermaids traditionally are viewed as mythical angels. Ruby Gillman reps a new chapter in that tradition.
As brilliant as Toni Collette and Jane Fonda are in narrative features, their voices are perfection in the animated world as Agatha Gillman and Grandmama. Their balance of comedy and drama is literally unparalleled no matter what genre of film they inhabit.
The embodiment of the title character is done justice and then some by Lana Condor. She brings just the right amount of awkward, playfulness and vulnerability to Ruby, while literally bringing to life all the emotions that come with wanting to hide being different instead of embracing one uniqueness. In addition, the lesson of learning that hiding the truth always comes with consequences is one not to be taken lightly from audiences of all ages and genders.
With immense vibrant colors, catchy soundtrack and infiltrating today’s technologies of live streaming, texting and social media, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is a perfect fun for young audiences going into the summer of 2023 after being locked down and limited for the last few years.
Bring some tissue, you might shed a tear or two.