July 23, 2013 by Paul Curtin
Like most animated films these days, Turbo is an inspirational tale about an underdog with big dreams. Those dreams being the idea that a snail could one day race in the Indy 500… Yeah, the premise of DreamWorks Animation’s latest is a bit hard to swallow, even for a children’s movie, but if you can get past how unbelievable it is, you’ll be in for one fun ride.
In DreamWorks Animation’s latest, Theo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) is a tiny snail with the drive and passion to one day live a more exciting and rewarding life outside of the typical day-to-day work of a garden snail. He spends his days working with his overly cautious brother Chet (Paul Giamatti) and other snails harvesting tomatoes and his nights watching his idol Guy Gagne (Bill Hader) race Formula 1 cars on TV and training to become faster himself.
The mantra of the film is repeated many times by Theo’s hero, Guy, “No dream is too big, and no dreamer too small.” It’s a good life lesson for people of all ages, and it’s what inspires Theo to pursue his dreams, no matter how crazy they might be.
Of course, Theo’s brother Chet and the rest of the snails look at him as an outsider, and he’s ostracized and picked on for his beliefs. That is, until one night after wondering off into the city, Theo winds up getting sucked into a drag-racing car’s engine and having the car’s nitrous oxide system merge with him – thus transforming him into a glowing super snail who goes by the name Turbo.
Shortly after gaining his new car-like powers, he’s found by a local taco shop owner, Tito (Michael Peña), who also has a big heart and big dreams, including snail racing and Turbo entering the Indy 500 as a way to bring in more customers to his dying Los Angeles strip mall.
At this point, as an adult, you’re saying to yourself: That’s one of the stupidest concepts I’ve ever heard for a movie — and you’re right. However, what children’s animated film with talking fish, rats, or cars isn’t silly? Turbo understands its own ridiculousness and has fun with it as any movie geared towards a younger audience should.
But Turbo isn’t just for the kiddies. From start to finish the film is packed with comedy that kids will love and parents can appreciate. This is due to its solid writing and star-studded cast of other supporting actors like Luis Guzman, Samuel L. Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudoplh, Ben Schwartz, and Michelle Rodrigues — even the usually annoying Ken Jeong has his share of funny moments playing an old Asian lady.
To really keep audiences of all ages hooked, Turbo boasts many visually stunning scenes. The animation is great, and all of the snail characters are cute and cool looking when glowing like fancy turbo kits — having a snail whose shell looks like a turbo charger glow and transform into a speed demon just works for me. Cinematographer Wally Pfister’s work as a visual consultant on the film (which won him an Academy Award for Inception and also made Christopher Nolan’s other masterpiece, The Dark Knight so special) clearly shows. The entire movie is filled with beautiful shots and bright colors that are made even more enjoyable in the 3D format.
Turbo may be filled with cliché after cliché, but what children’s movie these days isn’t? Turbo will surprise you with how much heart its story does have and will have you rooting for the cute little snail underdog the whole time. Along with a surprising adult soundtrack consisting of songs from Tupac, Run D.M.C., House of Pain, and other classics, Turbo is everything you could want in a silly animated film filled with tons of great action and emotion. Turbo gets 4 out of 5 stars (Great).