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Ruby Gillman: Just Another Normal Teenager

Better get kraken.

Some movies this summer can’t be as fortunate as Barbie and Oppenheimer, having constant aspects teased and marketed that keeps hype going and growing consistently towards its release. One of these movies is Dreamworks Animation’s Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken, released right at the end of June. The film set a new record for the lowest grossing opening weekend out of any Dreamworks film ever, with its current total cementing its status as a box-office bomb—only around $35 million on a $70 million budget.

Again, most Dreamworks fans know this is a result of the film’s poor marketing. Dreamworks has had some notoriously bad marketing recently, with another example being December’s Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. The film was hardly marketed, with even some Shrek fans being unaware of its release. Being launched alongside a myriad of other box office hits such as Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar: The Way of Water, it was looking likely that the film would flop. However, out of nowhere, word of mouth both in real life and on the internet led to the realization that the film was an instant classic and was deserving of a trip to the theater. Ruby Gillman suffered from the same marketing, though did not see the return that Puss in Boots did. A few more of these factors can be attributed to its mixed reception upon release and its introduction of an original story—whereas Puss in Boots: The Last Wish was a sequel to a Shrek spinoff.

Stylistically, the film is very fast-paced and flashy at times, credited to its dazzling underwater scenes and obvious satire on the “high school movie” genre. Ruby Gillman finds itself subverting some of the tropes typically found in high school movies, however plays some of them straight as well which doesn’t exactly mix the best with the subversion Dreamworks is known for in their films. Once a predictable element enters the plot, the viewer is left wondering when it’s going to subvert itself just like most of the other tropes in the movie. But the moment never comes and the viewer already knows how said plotpoint will end up about an hour before it does resolve in some way.

Ruby’s family tree, while small, is somehow convoluted whenever the spotlight is on them. Miscommunication and falling outs between family members is something that can be relatable for many, and would have been great when expanded upon earlier on rather than showing up. However, miscommunication between the film and its audience occurs instead, making it feel, at times, like another “then this happened” movie. This is something Turning Red handles better, and while Ruby Gillman does hit some of the same plot beats that Turning Red does, the two movies are not the same by any means. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, their pushes and pulls, and when put into perspective are obviously independent of each other.

Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken is now out on Digital, as well as in theaters.