7/25/2013 - A snail with a dream finds his way to the Indy 500 in Turbo, a medium-effort bit of animation from DreamWorks Animation.
Turbo (voice of Ryan Reynolds) dreams of racing his hero, Guy Gagné (Bill Hader). The problem? Guy is a human racing cars and Turbo, whose real name is Theo, is a snail who spends his days working in a tomato garden with his brother Chet (Paul Giamatti). Turbo might dream of rounding a track at lightning speed but in the real world he spends his days trying to avoid the three deadliest things in his world: birds, the lawn mower and a tricycle-riding toddler looking to crush something. After nearly getting shredded by the mower in pursuit of a tomato, Chet gives Turbo a talking to about his wild dreams. Turbo wonders off to sigh longingly and finds his way into the Los Angeles River (or, at least, the concrete-paved ditch that occasionally has water in it — see The Italian Job). There, he gets sucked into the engine of a souped-up race car and, thanks to some nitro, is himself supercharged. When he gets back to the garden, he shows off his new skills but the ensuing mayhem ends up getting Chet and him fired.
Wandering the streets after a bird encounter, Turbo and Chet are picked up by Tito (Michael Peña), co-owner of Dos Bros taco truck and an avid snail racer. While other snails in the race — Whiplash (Samuel L. Jackson), Smoove Move (Snoop Dogg), Burn (Maya Rudolph), Skidmark (Ben Schwartz) and White Shadow (Michael Patrick Bell) — think they’re about to smoke these newcomers, Turbo soon shows off his speed. Tito, himself a dreamer, thinks this amazing little snail might help bring customers to the shopping plaza. So, over his brother Angelo’s (Luis Guzman) objections, Tito and the plaza’s other shop owners — hobby shop owner Bobby (Richard Jenkins), mechanic Paz (Michelle Rodriguez) and manicurist Kim Ly (Ken Jeong) — decide to take the snails to the Indy 500.
A slightly-above-average mash-up of Cars and Ratatouille but with snails instead of cars and rats — there, there’s your short review of this A-OK, nobody-dies, nobody-cries bit of kidertainment. That sounds like faint praise, but if your kids movie is going to be sort of derivative, there are worst things in life to be derivative of than successful (Cars) and beloved (Ratatouille) Pixar movies. Worse things, like, for example, many of the DreamWorks Animation movies — nobody needs another Monsters vs. Aliens. Here, we get little characters that seem moderately kid appealing (snails, in the cartoon world, can do funny things with their eyes), a story that’s sweet enough and an appropriate amount of jokiness and slapstick comedy. Turbo is so generally good-natured that, while trying to determine whether or not the taco-selling Chicano brothers were an example of lazy stereotyping, I decided I was fine with it and took all the nods to Los Angeles Mexican-American culture as benign. (About the Korean nail salon owner voiced by Community’s Jeong I have a harder time making excuses.)
Turbo isn’t going to change your life but it’s a cute, enjoyable story with a basically good message. B
Rated PG for some mild action and thematic elements. Directed by David Soren and written by Darren Lemke, Robert D. Siegel and David Soren, Turbo is an hour and 36 minutes long and distributed by DreamWorks Animation.