Dreamworks’ Turbo is a classic underdog tale, except in this case the dog is a snail.
Theo (Ryan Reynolds) is not just any snail, but a snail who loves racing. Car racing, that is—a sport which his brother Chet (Paul Giamatti) pretty accurately (and hilariously) defines as a sport that is composed entirely of making left turns.
Still, he’s a snail, so he’s stuck toiling away his life at “the plant,” which in this case is literally a plant, and sneaking glimpses of his idol Guy Gagné (Bill Hader) on an abandoned television in the garage, and enduring the disapproval of Chet and the rest of the snail colony.
That all changes when he takes a magical dip in nitrous oxide while being hurled through the engine of a street racer. The chemical bath leaves Theo with a headache and the functionality of a car—speed, headlights, radio, and more.
These new skills prove valuable when he rescues Chet from the crows which plague their colony, and this journey proves to be the first step towards Theo’s dreams coming true.
After their narrow escape from the crows Chet and Theo find themselves in the throes of a garage snail racing league sponsored by Theo’s human counterpart Tito, a taco selling dreamer who also often disappoints his more practical older brother.
When Tito discovers Theo’s incredible speed, a plan to earn his brothers respect, by entering Turbo (the snail formerly known as Theo) in the Indianapolis 500.
Needless to say, Theo’s on his way with a new friend, a new name, and his very own race team: Whiplash, Burn, Skidmark, Smoove Move, and White Shadow (featuring the voices of Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz, Snoop Dogg, and Mike Bell).
I don’t know if you picked up on it in my sweeping summary (and title of the review) of this snail of a tale, but there’s a bit of a pacing problem with the storytelling (pun definitely intended). The human and snail story don’t mesh as well as the could and it’s primarily because we don’t meet most of the central characters until halfway through the movie. To be specific, we spend too much time seeing Turbo in his original setting, which is lovely and entertaining, but not the point of the story.
However, the wit of the dialogue compensates for the lags in the storytelling quite nicely. The personalities of the performers behind these animations shine through and make for an entertaining hour and a half.
Overall it’s an adorable, clever story which achieves that wonderful balance between being appropriate for children and entertaining for adults quite beautifully.
Anyone well-versed in the modern animated film genre (which I think I am), will most definitely recognize Turbo as an endearing blend of Ratatouille, Cars, and A Bug’s Life (all Pixar films strangely enough), and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.