Did you know in DISENCHANTED…
Did you know in DISENCHANTED…

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken

By Tara McNamara,
Common Sense Media Reviewer

Common Sense Media Reviewers

Fun animated coming-of-age fantasy has thoughtful messages.

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken Movie Poster: A figure in the shape of a teenage girl lies on a bench with headphones on, while various mystical sea creatures dance above her

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won’t—find in this movie.

  • Educational Value

    Story is based in some of the lore behind mermaids and krakens.

  • Positive Messages

    What makes you different is what makes you powerful, so let it shine. Honesty is important. Grandparents have much to offer, but you can’t force it. The rules parents put into place to keep kids safe may also be preventing them from realizing their own potential. Also, it’s important for parents to be present for their kids and offer nonjudgmental support, and fighting after you’ve said your piece often only makes a problem bigger. Themes of puberty, family, self-actualization, courage, empathy, and self-acceptance. The power dynamics between the mermaids and the kraken might remind some viewers of real-life situations involving humans of different races and/or social statuses.

  • Positive Role Models

    Ruby is a smart teen who loves and excels at math. She and the women in her family are especially strong, inside and out, and prioritize others’ needs. Characters lie to and deceive each other, but there are consequences and apologies.

  • Diverse Representations

    People from historically marginalized groups may relate to Ruby’s family feeling they need to hide their identity to assimilate. Racial, sexual, and body diversity among animated characters, both primary and supporting. Ruby’s crush is a Black skater boy, and her best friend, Margot, is queer and of Indian descent. In the ocean, the women are the warriors, and the female kraken, who are celebrated for their large size, are the leaders. Male characters are helpful and supportive of women. Voice actors are from diverse backgrounds: Star Lana Condor is Vietnamese American, and other characters are voiced by Black, White, German Indian, and Chinese American actors, among others.

    Inclusion information: Female actors, Asian actors, Female writers

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  • Violence & Scariness

    Battle scene between fantasy sea creatures that creates a tidal wave, putting marine life and teen characters in peril — but it isn’t emotionally manipulative and is only superficially worrisome. Unconscious human falls into water and is sinking for some time before being rescued. Slapstick comical animated violence involving an underwater sea creature getting hit by a car and speared in the head, but its rubbery body isn’t affected, nor does it feel pain.

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  • Sex, Romance & Nudity

    Subplot focuses on crushes and prom dates. A couple of quick affectionate kisses.

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  • Language

    A couple of mild insults: “dum-dum,” “shut up,” and “stupid.”

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  • Parents Need to Know

    Parents need to know that Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is an animated coming-of-age tale about realizing your own power. To avoid being perceived as horrible sea monsters, main character Ruby (voiced by Lana Condor) and her kraken family have assimilated on land. They’re disguised as humans in the diverse town of Oceanside, where the high school is harmoniously comprised of people of all skin colors, body types, and identities. But Ruby yearns to be accepted as her authentic self, instead of pretending to be something she’s not. When she and her new friend explore the ocean together, Ruby disobeys and lies to her mom. But it turns out her mother has been lying to her, too — and there are consequences and apologies. Perilous moments include an unconscious teen sinking in the ocean before being rescued and a fantasy battle in the water world that temporarily puts humans at risk. Language is limited to insults like “dum-dum” and “stupid.” There’s a clear message that what makes you different is what makes you powerful, and characters demonstrate empathy and courage. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.

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What’s the Story?

In RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN, the title character (voiced by Lana Condor) just wants to have a normal high school existence — and, luckily, no one sees through her human disguise. But when her prom-posal goes haywire, Ruby plunges into the ocean, which has been forbidden by her mother, Agatha (Toni Collette), because of the danger it holds to krakens. In the water, Ruby transforms into a colossal sea creature. Trying to deal with the changes her mother didn’t warn her about, she reconnects with her estranged grandmother (Jane Fonda) and learns that her true identity is far more noble than she’d been led to believe. Meanwhile, Ruby’s new friend Chelsea (Annie Murphy) has her own secret to reveal.

Is It Any Good?

A parenting gold mine, this literal fish-out-of-water story is completely entertaining and enjoyable for all ages, with plenty of positive messages. Director Kirk De Micco returns to the fertile ground he previously tilled in The Croods in telling the story of a teen girl who needs to get away from overprotective parents to realize her own capabilities. The message to kids can be applied in a variety of ways: “shine your light,” “you have more power than you know,” “a hero lies in you just below the surface,” etc. There’s also a nice nudge for grandparents — yes, you have much to offer, but you can’t force it. And for parents, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken offers an important reminder of the fact that, sometimes, the rules we put into place to keep our kids safe may be preventing them from realizing their full potential.

Ruby’s mom, Agatha, is a fully realized character, a successful realtor with a picture-perfect family — as long as she can keep the family’s secrets hidden. There’s a lot of parenting wisdom sprinkled throughout the movie, but two scenes shine as examples of dealing with teen emotions. When Ruby is distressed by her new giant kraken form, Agatha sits with her, distracting her with funny stories, which calms Ruby into returning to her normal self. Agatha literally reduces the problem by being present and offering nonjudgmental support. Later, Agatha and Ruby are arguing, and Agatha digs in to her righteousness, escalating Ruby’s rage until the girl is out of control — in other words, demonstrating that fighting after you’ve said your piece only makes the problem bigger. These nuggets of wisdom are there for the taking, but the truth is, you don’t have to do a deep dive to enjoy this ocean tale: There’s plenty of fun floating on the surface.

Talk to Your Kids About …

  • Families can talk about the mythology of mermaids and krakens. What other movies have you seen these creatures in? How does Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken flip the script?

  • What skills and capabilities make you unique and amazing? What about your friends?

  • How does “omitting the truth” lead to dire consequences? How would the movie’s events have transpired differently if Ruby’s mother had been open and honest?

  • How does Ruby demonstrate empathy and courage? Why are these important character strengths?

  • How do the movie’s female and male characters play against gender stereotypes? Why is it important to show gender expression in a variety of ways?

Movie Details

  • In theaters: June 30, 2023
  • On DVD or streaming: July 20, 2023
  • Cast: Lana Condor, Toni Collette, Annie Murphy
  • Director: Kirk DeMicco
  • Inclusion Information: Female actors, Asian actors, Female writers
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Ocean Creatures
  • Character Strengths: Courage, Empathy
  • Run time: 90 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG
  • MPAA explanation: some action, rude humor and thematic elements
  • Award: Common Sense Selection
  • Last updated: July 20, 2023

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