Dreamworks Animation’s latest offering is the story of a snail who dreams of being fast enough to race. Through a freak accident, he’s empowered with speed that allows him to do just that.
It’s a bit of a strange choice for a feature, but DreamWorks is talented enough to turn the story into a mildly entertaining animated film.
Theo (Ryan Reynolds) lives with a colony of other snails in a garden. Each day they go to work harvesting tomatoes to eat, and trying to keep safe from threats like birds, lawnmowers and the evil kid who lives in the house nearby. His brother, Chet (Paul Giamatti) is a safety officer for the colony, and is always chiding him to be more focused. Theo, you see, is obsessed with auto racing. Each night he watches video taped races on TV, and during the day, his daydreaming about racing gets in the way of daily life.
One day, when his wandering imagination leads to trouble in the garden, Theo runs off to face the world on his own. It’s a decision that nearly turns tragic for him as he’s sucked into the engine of a street racing muscle car. Instead, however, he emerges magically endowed with super speed. He can now literally zoom about at the speed of a racecar, leaving a blue neon trail in his wake.
This gift winds up getting him caught in the world of snail racing, where he literally blows the competition away (voiced by Samuel L Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph and others). The man who entered him in the races (Michael Peña) feels like Turbo (as he’s now called) could be just the ticket to bring some life to the rundown strip mall the races are held in. He and his brother (Luis Guzman) run a taco truck there, and along with three other business owners (Michelle Rodriguez, Richard Jenkins, and Ken Jeong as an old Asian lady who runs a nail salon), they face diminishing business in the ghost town plaza their stores are in.
When the suggestion is made of entering Turbo in the Indy 5000, it could just be the ticket to putting everyone back on the map.
“Turbo” is a modern, big budget, CGI animated offering. As such, you’re going to get gorgeous animation, a celebrity voice cast, and a combination of action and humor. In regards to the production quality expectations, “Turbo” delivers. It is gorgeous to watch, there’s plenty of action mixed in with the laughs, and the character voices are excellent (especially Giamatti as the “better safe than sorry” snail, and Ken Jeong as an old Asian lady, LOL).
Unfortunately though, it’s simply an odd premise. First of all, I don’t think anyone is clamoring to see a movie featuring snails as the primary characters. Secondly, I don’t feel the connection between snails and racing. I understand what they’re trying to go for, with the daydreaming and the sudden wish fulfillment and the eventual “believe in yourself” message, etc… but somehow it all felt like an odd decision from beginning to end.
Nonetheless, “Turbo” is an entertaining bit of family entertainment. It has funny moments and big action set pieces. I’m not certain that anyone will be clamoring for “Turbo 2”, but I think families who go to check it out will leave happy enough.