VOCAL WORK BY
Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader, Paul Giamatti, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Pena, Ben Schwartz, Maya Rudolph, Ken Jeong, Luis Guzman, Kurtwood Smith, Michelle Rodriguez, Richard Jenkins
David Soren, Darren Lemke, Robert D. Siegel
20th Century Fox
If by some chance you find yourself completely unable to give yourself over to the central idea behind the new DreamWorks Animation animated feature Turbo, that being that a speed dreamin' snail named Theo (Ryan Reynolds) could suddenly find himself gifted with enough speed to compete at the Indianapolis 500, then you're likely going to find the film a completely maddening experience.
That said, if you're actually going into an animated feature expecting reality you've likely already lost a few marbles anyway. Turbo may be a predictable film, but it's predictable in all the ways that we like our animated features to be and it's also filled with gentle laughs, a good story, fun animation and those terrific life lessons that we like for our kids to take away ever so subtly from these types of films.
Theo is your fairly average garden snail who toils away his life in what resembles a rather lush neighborhood garden, or "work" as the snails call it, with his wearied and wary brother Chet (Paul Giamatti). Theo spends pretty much all his waking hours outside of work watching auto racing and living out a fantasy life that includes his own racing alongside Indy 500 legend Frenchman Guy Gagne (Bill Hader), whose line "No dream is too big and no dreamer is too small" only serves to fuel Theo's larger than life fantasies. It's a series of mishaps Theo experiences after a work accident gets he and his brother canned that leads him to encounter the streetsmart snails Whiplash (Samuel L. Jackson), Smoove Move (Snoop Dogg), Burn (Maya Rudolph), Skidmark (Ben Schwartz) and White Shadow (Michael Patrick Bell) and a seemingly similarly misguided dreamer Tito (Michael Pena), who runs a taco stand with his brother Angelo (Luis Guzman) but has much bigger dreams.
There's not much doubt at any point where all of this is going, but first-time director David Soren gives us a terrifically entertaining time getting there. For a film about racing, Turbo does occasionally struggle with its pacing - at least until the entire gang lands at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and everything picks up in speed. The stories all intertwine quite nicely, though it's Theo's central story that is easily the most captivating and entertaining. There's a gentle yet winning chemistry between Tito and Theo, a refreshing change from the usual "We need to have conflict" approach that seems to plague motion pictures these days. When the two unite to also save the Starlight Plaza in which Tito and Angelo's Dos Bros Taco Stand is located alongside a hobby shop run by Bobby (Richard Jenkins), Paz (Michelle Rodriguez) and her auto shop, and a nail salon owned by Kim-Ly (Ken Jeong), Turbo gets a large dose of heart and inspiration to go along with its humor.
The vocal work is top notch throughout the film, with Paul Giamatti, Bill Hader and Samuel L. Jackson especially shining among the key players, though Ryan Reynolds is also quite fine here as is the joyously irreverent Ken Jeong. The snails are drawn delightfully with a pair of googly eyes that will likely delight the kiddoes and adults alike. While we're not necessarily talking ground-breaking animation here, Turbo continues the DreamWorks Animation move into A-list animated features.
Fans of the Indianapolis 500 will no doubt be impressed with the attention to detail, especially within the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While there are certain moments outside the Speedway where nitpicking is possible, it's a delight to see Indianapolis at the forefront of such an entertaining motion picture that also manages to be quite the respectful tribute to auto racing.
There's an abundance of quality kid pics in theaters right now with both Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 still doing solid business, so one can only hope that Turbo gets the attention it deserves. If you're paying attention (or watch the credits), you'll notice a few familiar names from the racing community showing up in cameos including my longtime favorite, Mario Andretti, who is mercifully NOT slowing down in this film.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic