The Kirk DeMicco-directed DreamWorks flick with the awkward name Ruby Gilman, Teenage Kraken follows a headstrong high school student with a secret. That is, she and her family are aquatic animals in human form. Ruby (voiced by Lana Condor), desperate to fit into the seaside town society, loyally follows her ruse, but she’s frustrated by her parents’ cardinal rule that she stays out of the water. ing.
One day, a teenage girl falls into a wave and finds out why. When Ruby is submerged, she transforms into a sea creature with giant tentacles, just like her mother (Toni Collette) and her grandmother (Jane Fonda). The device looks a lot like the one in Pixar’s Turning Red, but it should be enough to power the movie. “I’m a monster,” Ruby yells after a devastating accident on Earth, sending the viewer’s adolescent metaphor needle to red.
But in this chaotic, family-friendly affair, the lone metaphorical imagery found within teen drama doesn’t help. Ruby soon leaves the shore, and her stresses escalate to a scheming mermaid, a salty-footed sailor (Will Forte), a magical trident hidden within an undersea volcano, and more. Even the matriarchal nexus at the heart of the story is unsatisfactory, its good intentions suffocated by plot confusion.
A few evocative visual details help unify Ruby’s ramshackle world. The architectural designs of her coastal settlements are considered mid-century hybrids of her modern and nautical kitsch, and the expressions of her characters are richly emotive. Unfortunately, the underwater aesthetics are sparse, emphasizing fluorescent marine animals. A ghoulish neon blob, like a celebrity voice actor, seems to be a prerequisite for her recent animated adventures.
Ruby Gilman, Teenage Kraken
PG designation. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. at the theater.