Dreamworks Animation’s “Turbo” is the story of a snail with the dream to be fast. And not just clear the garden in half a day fast, we’re talking rip roaring full throttle Indie 500 fast. Sick of his hum drum life working the over ripe tomato disposal line in the garden, Theo a.k.a Turbo (Ryan Reynolds) is obsessed with racing and with one racer in particular. Guy Gangé (Bill Hader). His constant ambition gets the best of him when an incident with the prized tomato Big Red causes both he and his older brother Chet (Paul Giamatti) to be humiliated and frowned up by the other snails. Down hearted, Turbo leaves the garden and goes to admire the traffic on the freeway. He wishes to be fast on the first star he sees (which is actually an airplane light). A freak accident leads him to be sucked into a drag racer’s nitrous system and he is infused with the essence of speed. The next morning, he comes to terms with his new powers which include; headlight eyes, radio transmissions, blinkers and stop lights in his shell and of course, the ability to travel at blinding speeds. He tries to use the powers to defeat the mean kid on a tricycle who runs over snails for fun, but being unable to control them fully, the trike crashes into the tomato garden. Chet and Turbo are fired and Chet is snatched up some hungry crows. Turbo gives chase and tracks them down to a run down strip mall. Once they are safe from the crows, they are then captured by Tito, a co owner of the “Dos Bros” stripmall’s taco stand. Tito and the other shop keepers race snails and Turbo is given a hard time by the other snails (including the likes of Samuel L Jackson and Snoop Dogg), who all have modified shells thanks to model store owner. When they all see what Turbo can do, Tito realises this what can put them on the map. Turbo, by means of highligting a billboard, convinces Tito they should enter the Indie 500. Tito’s brother and owner of the Taco stand, Angelo, thinks the idea is ridiculous and won’t go any where much like all of Tito’s other genius plans. Tito ignores his brother and along with Turbo, Chet, the other snails and his shop owner friends, they set off to conquer the Indie 500.
As you would expect from talking animal movie, the plot is formulaic and vary rarely strays away from the “Underdog defies all odds” type of story. Where as a lot of animation studios have become popular with adults for dropping a joke or two in that they can get, this never tries to be anything more than it is, a story for kids.
The characters are one dimensional, and they are mostly forgettable. It’s all very by the numbers. The characters could have been played just as well by anyone else, so this pretty meaty cast lends nothing to the movie. Although not exactly thrilling, the movie has a warm fuzzy feel to it when it comes to the relationship between Tito and Turbo. Two characters that aspire to be the best, on opposite ends of the size scale, depending on each other equally. It’s an nice little bit of charm in an otherwise flat script.
The animation is a redeeming factor, with well fleshed out environments and blooming light effects. The light trails left behind by Turbo when speeding around are reminiscent of the Light Cycles from Tron which is a nice touch as it helps give the illusion of speed some more weight. The character designs are in classic Dreamworks style as they are much more cartoon like that that of Pixar and Disney efforts, with simpler textures and finishing. They manage to convincingly give the snails Human like movements, expressions and interactions which is impressive considering the lack of a snail’s body parts.
The soundtrack is average but does something that always baffles me about some studio’s kids movies. The always seem to gravitate to random hip hop tracks or hip hop covers to punctuate scenes of character progression and as far as I’m aware, this is genre of music that doesn’t exactly resonate with children younger than 12.
Turbo, although not without it’s occasional charms and good animation, falls a bit flat compared to other recent animated movies. I would watch this is if there was nothing else available, or I needed something to entertain younger kids.