Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars
Dreamworks Animation has been nipping at the heels of Pixar for a while now. With 26 animated releases under their belt, they’ve come really close and even exceeded when pitted against the Willy Wonka’s of computer animation. Flicks like “Shrek”, “Kung Fu Panda” and “How to Train Your Dragon” have shown the creative pool at Dreamworks can hit a homerun in terms of both critical acclaim and box office numbers. “Turbo” will not be one of those.
Theo (Reynolds), who also goes by Turbo, is a garden snail who pounds energy drinks (as much as a snail can) and watches his hero, Indy 500 Champion Guy Gagne (Bill Hader) on TV at nights. Turbo is inspired by Gagne and wants to race just like his hero. The only thing stopping him is his mundane life spent sorting bad and good tomatoes in the garden. Also holding him back is his brother Chet (Giamatti) who aggressively tells him his dream of racing are ludicrous. And, of course, the obvious fact that he’s a snail. After a freak accident that melds his body with nitrous oxide, he goes from moving an inch a minute to well over 200 mph. Amidst the chaos of figuring out his newfound powers, Turbo and his brother are discovered by Tito (Pena). Tito runs a taco stand in a decaying strip mall with his brother. In his spare time he races snails with surrounding business owners. Just like Turbo, Tito has big dreams as well as ideas to promote the taco stand.
If this movie sounds a tad uneven, that’s because it is. I’m not saying that “Turbo” isn’t an entertaining kid’s flick. It is. The animation is quite gorgeous with some precise background detail. The first half of the movie is surprisingly creative as we see the daily life of snails, including their assembly line style of harvesting tomatoes. Ryan Reynolds is one of those actors that I believe does not get enough credit for the roles he does. He really brings a fun and youthful energy to Turbo and you can sense he’s giving his all every time he voices one of Turbo’s reactions. It took me almost forty-five minutes to realize Bill Hader was putting on his best suave French voice as the prideful Gagne. As for Paul Giamatti, you just can’t go wrong with him as the misguided voice of reason during times of chaos. The three leads deliver but there’s still one little problem. They’re buried beneath a slew of characters.
By the end of the movie, I wasn’t quite sure who the story was about anymore. Turbo meets five other snails, voiced by Snoop Dogg, Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz and Michael Bell. They all seem to be fighting for attention when they’re on-screen. The same problem occurs when the business owners of the decrepit shopping area, voiced by Luis Guzman, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong and Michelle Rodriguez, make an appearance. By the time the Indy 500 rolls around, all that charm Reynolds channeled into Turbo is lost among too many obnoxious snail one-liners and monotonous store owners.
For kids, the whole “Never give up on your dreams” theme will be fresh, but their parents will see that theme coming within the first five minutes. This isn’t a memorable children’s movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s still not a decent film to take your kids to. Luckily there’s enough humor for adults and their wee ones to appreciate. Also, Jackson gleefully pays homage to an earlier movie role of his. That being said, if your child gets the joke, I might have to question your parenting skills. The writers do their best to show respect to the sport of racing, but they also manage to be in on the joke that, yes…you’re making one giant left turn 800 times. “Turbo” won’t take the checkered flag when put against some of the other kid-friendly films this summer but, even on a bad day, Dreamworks can still stay in the race.