Seeing the trailer for ‘Turbo’ a few months back I was rather determined that this was going to be one of those films I skipped entirely. Then my girls caught wind up it and begged and pleaded and I thought, I’ll rent it. Then the film was released and they begged some more and I said “let your grandma take you” but for some reason I wound up sitting in a theater last night waiting for what I only assumed was going to be ‘Cars’ with snails.
‘Turbo’ is far from a truly intelligent or unique film, and yet it manages to be not only fun and engaging but charming to a point where I found myself completely entwined in the story and the characters. The tried and true themes of ‘dreaming big’ are not something new or untold with animated films. Animated films, which are manufactured for children, are there to inspire confidence and help them to realize that they can do anything they set their mind to. That is why in animated films, rats can cook, wimps can train dragons and snails can race cars. Impossibilities exaggerate truths for kids and help them to ‘dream big’, which is something we want for all of our kids. Like I said, this is nothing new, and ‘Turbo’ doesn’t really even attempt to make it new, but it does handle its themes and premise with spunk and charm.
The film tells the story of Theo, a worker snail who harvest tomatoes in a garden but watches Nascar at night, dreaming of one day being a racer. The huge obstacle being that he is a snail and thus VERY slow. Still, this and the fact that his antics cause turmoil within his social circle and ridicule from his fellow workers does not stop him from thinking outside of the box, and when a freak accident leaves everything in his slug-juice, Theo (aka Turbo) finally sees a light at the end of the tunnel. When a down and out taco shop owner snatches up Theo and his brother for some snail racing his powers wow this small community and soon Theo finds himself racing in the Indie 500.
I’ll say this; I’m really happy that films like this, ‘Monsters University’ and ‘The Croods’ have developed stories with no true antagonist other than life’s obstacles and so we aren’t force feeding our children more and more stories about evil people doing evil things. The chief antagonist in ‘Turbo’ is the mere fact that Theo is a snail, with a fame hungry racecar driver playing a minor obstacle in the end. There is no evil snail trying to kill him. Sure, there is some ‘Sid-like’ kid that lives across the street who likes to crush snails on his bike, but he’s not evil but merely a toddler and it’s played up for comic relief.
Speaking of comic relief, ‘Turbo’ is genuinely funny. The voice work from the cast is great, with Oscar nominees Paul Giamatti, Samuel L. Jackson and Richard Jenkins spouting off alongside SNL alumni Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph with Snoop Dogg, Michael Pena, Michelle Rodriguez and Ken Jeong lending their talents as well. Everyone hits their notes and makes a unified ensemble. The sight gags (especially with the crows) are hilarious, and the use of music is rather inspired. That spoof on the viral sensation of ‘I ain’t got time for that’ was one of the highlights of my movie year so far!
So, with a surprised spirit I say “GO SEE TURBO!!!”
I’d give this a solid B. As far as Oscar is concerned, this has generated pretty decent reviews but I wonder if it will be enough for the Animated Film Oscar nom? It was better than ‘Epic’, but not as flashy or as topical so I can see this being passed over as ‘silly’ and ‘frivolous’ despite being a solid kid’s movie (something that ‘Epic’ was not). I'd personally consider it for Original Song and for the Sound categories. It had richly textured soundscapes that I was completely impressed by.