Release Date: July 17, 2013
Rating: PG (for some mild action and thematic elements)
Run Time: 96 min.
Director: David Soren
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph, Michael Pena, Luis Guzman, Bill Hader, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, Snoop Lion, Samuel L. Jackson
Billed as The Fast & Furious for the kiddie set, a pretty genius marketing ploy considering how well the sixth installment recently fared with adults at the box office, Turbo is an impossibly cute but decidedly conventional story about striving for the seemingly impossible dream.
Like the rat who dreamed of cooking exquisite French food in Michelin-starred restaurants in 2007’s far superior Ratatouille, a common garden snail like Theo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds, The Croods) isn’t exactly the most likely candidate for the Indy 500. Still, as slow and small as he is, those illusions of grandeur are what get Theo through the day, much to the chagrin of his practical older brother, Chet (Paul Giamatti, Win Win).
While Chet has repeatedly told Theo that the key to happiness is simply accepting your circumstances, Theo still can’t shake the idea that he was made for something more. So after toiling in the tomato "factory" he works in day after day, Theo spends his free time watching his favorite competitor, a cocky Frenchman named Guy Gagne (Hoodwinked Too!'s Bill Hader, hilariously channeling Sacha Baron Cohen’s character in Talladega Nights), win race after race.
Not surprisingly, Theo's near-constant daydreaming doesn’t do much for his on-the-job productivity, and he’s close to losing the gig. But before his impatient boss has an opportunity to officially lower the boom, a freak accident finally delivers Theo’s need for speed. After venturing beyond the Los Angeles suburbs he calls home one evening, Theo accidentally gets sucked into the engine of a local street racer's car. Sprayed with a performance-enhancement drug of sorts that basically re-writes his genetic code, Theo is finally the supercharged snail of his dreams.And since a fast snail is a pretty rare find, it’s not shocking that an enterprising young businessman would want to profit from him. As a bored line cook for his brother’s failing taco truck, Angelo (Luis Guzman, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) has his head perpetually stuck in the clouds, too. The sort of guy who's always the advocate for get-rich-quick schemes that never quite pan out, Angelo believes Theo, who has renamed himself "Turbo," is the missing mollusk in his snail racing enterprise that he believes will help bolster the customer base.
As ambitious as these characters are, the same can't be said for Turbo's paint-by-numbers script. Following the oh-so-predictable, if-you-just-believe-and-try-hard-enough-your-dreams-will-come-true trajectory of so many other films, Turbo could've used a little more torque.
That said, the packed house of kiddos at my particular screening seemed to be having the time of their lives. No doubt drawn in by the low-key laughs, bright color palette and the sheer likeability of the snail protagonist, they found Turbo apparently enjoyable enough.
But for anyone who appreciates entertainment that ventures outside the shell, well, you’ll probably have to wait for the next Pixar film because imagination is in pretty short supply in this Dreamworks offering.
- Drugs/Alcohol: A couple of characters pop open a beer and drink socially. A performance-enhancing drug (a.k.a nitrous oxide) unexpectedly propels Turbo to NASCAR speeds.
- Language/Profanity: “Son of a gun” and “for crying out loud” stand in for their harsher counterparts.
- Sex/Nudity: No sex or nudity. A couple of jokes flirt with humor that’ll go over the heads of most younger kids. Chet is mistaken for a girl on several occasions, and it becomes one of the movie’s long-running jokes.
- Violence: Considering how small they are, it’s no surprise that snails would fear getting run over by a lawnmower or squashed by a mean-spirited kid on a big wheel (we see both threats on several occasions). Vultures snatch a snail or two practically every day. There are a few perilous situations on the race track, too, when Turbo enters the fold. One particularly competitive racer tries to take Turbo down by any means necessary. That racer also has a few accidents of his own along the way. We also see a few racers get into accidents or crash into the wall.
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