Sports underdog stories are a staple of cinema. Even for a guy who doesn’t otherwise enjoy watching football, baseball or NASCAR, I can appreciate a well written and acted film that uses a sport as its setting. I’m all the more likely to enjoy it if it’s animated. Dreamworks’ Turbo takes that trope and tells the story from the eyes of a snail whose only wish is to be fast.
The title character, Turbo, is a garden snail who is completely uncontent with his life in the slow lane, picking tomatoes with an army of other snails. He spends his off hours watching and rewatching Formula One racing and trying to improve his own speed. During one particularly stressful day in the garden he makes his way out to the freeway and makes a wish to be fast, wherein he is sucked into the engine of a street racing muscle car and nearly drowns in NoS, the fuel booster you’ve seen in every Fast & Furious movie. Magically, the experience gives him all the powers of a car, not the least of which is the speed he so desires.
He is captured by a kindred spirit, a young man who dreams of bigger things than co-running a strip-mall taco stand and the two somehow work their way into the Indy 500, destined to take on Turbo’s hero on the race track.
I realize that may seem a tad spoiler-ish, but Turbo’s story is, at best, a tired one even if it is a bit slimier than, say, The Rookie. Not to mention, the 3 months of constant ad bombardment has told more of the story in each 2 minute commercial than I did in the last 2 paragraphs.
The story isn’t short on heart. It has the type of “follow your dreams” and “never give up” these kind of films thrive on without getting overly preachy. It should be noted that the protagonist doesn’t make it on his own moxie or with help from his friends. In this case, he got it with steroids. I know it’s a bit of a stretch, and the catalyst is innocent enough, but put in it’s simplest form, the hero got strength from ingesting a foreign substance, seemingly without consequence. I don’t suspect kids are likely to start downing unleaded fuel thinking it’ll help him outrun bullies, but there’s still something just a little off about the message.
That’s not to say it isn’t a bit of fun. The characters are colorful visually and in personality which will make it a hit with the little ones. Ryan Reynolds and Paul Giamatti voice the title character and his best friend respectively, while a myriad of other celebs lend their pipes to supporting characters including Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Rudolph, and Snoop Dog. Ken Jeong in particular stands out as Kim-Ly, a crazy old manicurist lady who isn’t afraid of a scuffle.
It’s cute but predictable, enjoyable but forgettable. Dreamworks plays it relatively safe but still manages to eek out a few adult laughs here and there that makes for a decent family outing and a likely sure thing in home video collections for households with kids.