The Indy 500 would seem like a pipe dream for a snail, but there's one absolutely determined to realize it. Having just set a new personal record of a seventeen minute yard, this little guys decides to leave his slow-paced tomato plant and hit the highway, where a trip through the air intake valve of a sports car revs his system with nitrous oxide. The little snail that could meets some like-minded mollusks and the finish line gets closer for "Turbo."
Dreamworks animation has had its share of duds, but they've also had some of the strongest franchises outside of the Disney umbrella ("Shrek," "Madagascar," "Kung Fu Panda""). With "Turbo," they've at least equaled Pixar's "Cars" - and the little snails are cuter.
Cowriter (with "Shrek Forever After's" Darren Lemke and "The Wrestler's" Robert D. Siegel)/director David Soren (TV's 'Merry Madagascar') have put together another unlikely-underdog-beating-the-odds story and added depth to it by featuring a parallel, human angle. That would come in the form of Tito (voice of Michael Peña), the big dreaming half of Dos Bros Tacos, and the other proprietors of the rundown Starlight Plaza. After Theo (Turbo's real name) wrecks havoc at the tomato 'plant,' resulting in his and older bro Chet's (voice of Paul Giamatti) expulsion, the two end up in a bad part of town but are promptly captured by Tito, who sees them as possible competitors for his snail racing competition. When he sees that Turbo (voice of Ryan Reynolds) can travel at 200 mph, he thinks the little guy can be a business boosting attraction. Then Turbo points out the upcoming Indy 500 and much to his brother Angelo's (voice of Luis Guzmán) dismay, Tito convinces Hobby store owner Bobby (voice of Richard Jenkins), auto body shopper Paz (voice of Michelle Rodriguez) and nail artist Kim-Ly (voice of Ken Jeong) to pitch in for the $20K entrance fee. The people and the racers - the Starlight's other snails go along as pit crew - hit the road before Angelo realizes the taco shop savings are gone.
Of course, Tito gets laughed out of the entry office, but uses his promotional savvy to break into Indy champion Guy Gagné's (voice of Bill Hader) media spotlight and show what little Turbo can do. Soon an onlooker's amazing video has gone viral and public support gets the souped-up snail into the race. Everyone's thrilled except for cautious Chet.
Soren works humor into his inventively shot animated feature from many angles. There's Theo's fantasy life, lived in front of a television set and the suburban world of the snails where harvesting a homeowner's tomatoes is fraught with such perils as 'Juice Box,' a bug squashing kid on a Big Wheel, lawn mowers and worst of all, crows, which repeatedly swoop into the action to snatch away another hapless member of the community. The director also uses perspective quite keenly, matching snails-eye-view of events with overhead shots which bring everything back to reality. Then there's the second world of snails - the Starlight racers - comprised of Whiplash (voice of Samuel L. Jackson), Skid Mark (voice of Ben Schwartz), Smoove Move (voice of Snoop Dogg) and female racer Burn (voice of Maya Rudolph) whose interest in Chet is surprising. White Shadow (voice of Michael Patrick Bell) has a misguided sense of branding. Theo's intro to the racers is a high-flying adventure which is paralleled even more spectacularly during the film's climax where Chet meets his fears head-on to encourage his brother. The suspense Soren achieves in his very slow finish line finale is as ironic as the film's whole concept.
Voice work is good all around. Reynolds is a bit of an odd choice for a snail, but he's fine, brightly matched by his Character's human counterpart Peña. Giamatti is the most perfectly cast, his low, dolorous vocalizing just right for a head-in-the-shell snail. Hader is unrecognizable as the competitive French Canadian driver who visually appears based on French actor Vincent Cassel (inconceivably, the writers didn't provide him a pun on es-car-got).
The 3D format probably isn't essential for "Turbo," although it does add visual interest to flying and racing scenes.
Robin did not see this film.
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