PLOT: Theo is a snail that wants bigger and better things with his confined garden snail life. With ambitions of being a racecar snail, he escapes from the doldrums by watching his heroes on the television. After a freak accident however he is blessed with the power to speed faster than any snail before him. Will his sudden powers lead to realizing his dreams, or will he crash and burn into the real world?
In the latest adventure from DreamWorks Animation, a garden snail feels the need for speed. TURBO is a predictable fable that follows the same course that many a sports underdog themed movie has followed before it. This little snail named Theo (Ryan Reynolds) doesn’t want to accept his uneventful and boring fate like his older brother Chet (Paul Giamatti) has. He wants to someday meet the great racecar driver Guy Gagne (Bill Hadar) and who knows, maybe even race in the Indianapolis 500. This is a pretty big dream for a snail no? However things change for him after a freak accident leaves him fuel injector fortified. Suddenly, his desire to move faster than a snail’s pace comes to life and he can move as fast as any big-wheel, power mower… or even speeding car.
We all know that animated films don’t need to pander to children to be successful. They can offer up complex storytelling with riveting characters and go to unexpected places. Still, there is something to be said for a familiar story that can inspire and ignite passion in young viewers. Thankfully TURBO manages to do just that. At the heart of this entertaining and heartwarming flick is the idea that you can strive to be better and dare to dream big. You may know exactly where this is going, but getting there is where the fun lies.
Ryan Reynolds is a great choice to give voice to Theo/Turbo. The cocky yet vulnerable energy he gives the little snail that could works wonders. As a ying to his yang, Giamatti is also perfectly cast as the brother who is more than a little concerned for his younger siblings’ well-being. When Theo spends his nights watching an old television with videotaped races on VHS while Chet tries to sleep there is an honest to goodness brotherly bond going on, one which continues to grow as the story progresses. Now, how a snail would be able to flip on that VHS machine is sort of hard to believe, but seriously, this is about a snail wanting to win the Indianapolis 500 so you’d best be prepared to suspend a ton of disbelief. Of course the same could be said about nearly every single animated film released.
On Theo and Chet’s adventures, they find themselves taken in by a friendly taco stand owner named Tito (Michael Pena). Much like the two snails, Tito is a dreamer with an older brother Angelo (Luis Guzman) who just doesn’t understand. The parallels are overtly similar yet it still works. While spending their time at a taco truck in Van Nuys, California, Theo and Chet meet another group of racing enthusiasts – who also happen to be snails - including Samuel L. Jackson as Whiplash, Snoop Dogg (aka Snoop Lion) as Smoove Move, Maya Rudolph as Burn plus a few other familiar, with a couple not so familiar, names. The star-studded cast tends to be overused in modern day big-budget animation, yet the vocal talent is more appropriate than say Beyoncé in the recent flick EPIC.
Directing his first animated feature, David Soren manages to keep things moving faster than a speeding TURBO. The director also shares writing credits with Darren Lemke and Robert D. Seigel and even though they are treading familiar territory, the script manages to create a very entertaining ride. The opening sequence involving a televised race is especially exciting with the 3D element nearly bringing it all to life. The animation and the story combined make for an energetic feature that is far better than one would expect from a racing snail flick.
TURBO is a simple underdog sports movie. However I found it to be more heartfelt and enjoyable than both the recent MONSTERS UNIVERSITY and DESPICABLE ME 2. The cast is appealing and the story is engaging, even if it is very predictable. The most important thing however is how much fun it is watching the little snail fight against his very own nature of being slow. Reynolds is terrific here as well as most of the supporting characters, especially Hadar, Giamatti and Guzman. It may feel a bit too familiar but TURBO works. In fact, this may be the most entertaining animated movie of the summer.
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