Since Pixar is largely stuck in an unimaginative yet lucrative rut these days, audiences might as well get the same treatment elsewhere with a little more fun and a lot less hollowness involved. Fox and DreamWorks recently teamed up with positive results for The Croods, and now they’re collectively back with Turbo, an underdog story of snails because, hey, why not? Thanks to this movie and the likes of Monsters University, these slimy creatures are finally getting their due this summer. At its core, Turbo is an amazingly simple tale of a little snail who could … and does.
Young Turbo (Ryan Reynolds), also known in his daily life as Theo, lives out his meager existence while caught between drudgery (doing the usual slow and boring stuff that snails are wont to do, like harvesting tomatoes) and relatively high danger (slowly dodging crows and bratty children) while still finding it in his heart to cling to dreams that he will one day be like his racing idol, Guy Gagne (Bill Hader). Yes, this is a snail who watches television during his off hours. Turbo’s older brother, Chet (Paul Giamatti), discourages these silly daydreams because that’s what big brothers do in the movies. One day, Turbo learns by sheer chance that he can make himself very fast by way of nitrous oxide, which alters his physical essence and makes him capable of zooming 200 mph down the road. Naturally, Turbo seizes the day and ends up racing against real cars in the Indianapolis 500. It’s all so very dumb, but this is an easy, breezy summer movie that will inexplicably charm you into acquiescence.
Very small children will adore this movie even if adults will resist the urge to notice that there’s not really an original note to be found in the entirety of the experience. One would also do well to not think about the so-called hidden messages within the movie. That is, Turbo achieves his dreams not through ability and hard work but for two simple reasons: (1) He really wanted things to happen; and (2) He got really damn lucky. Essentially, Turbo is on snail steroids and is cheating his way to glory, but that’s not how adults (and hopefully kids too) should read things. Instead, the movie is trying to send the message to kids that it’s okay to dream big. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Visually speaking, the animation looks really sharp and cool especially during the race scenes and while panning away to illustrate the plight of slowness that snails must endure during their daily lives. There’s also some interesting talent at work here with both Samuel L. Jackson and Snoop Dogg voicing other who are closely matched to their own real-life personalities, but (thankfully), Sam Jackson skips the “motherf—-er” dialogue in this movie. Ryan Reynolds is okay but fairly bland and not as fun as he was while voicing The Croods. Other characters are joyously voiced by Maya Rudolph, Michelle Rodriguez, and Ken Jeong. Ken’s a weirdo as always, but that’s his shtick.
When it comes down to it, Turbo is a fairly silly yet ultimately harmless movie. The littlest children — probably aged 6 years and younger — will get a serious kick out of the entire affair, and I don’t really have much to say about this movie other than it’s probably the most lighthearted, enjoyable children’s movie that I’ve seen in over a year. The story and message of the movie do not contain any complex meanings to parse, and this is not deep stuff at all, but sitting back and enjoying the ride was good enough for me. This movie might be best described as Cars for snails, but DreamWorks has made the movie that Cars 2 really wanted to be. Turbo is unobnoxious, charming, and breezy fun. Dare I even say it was a “delightful” experience? Just don’t quote me on that. I do have a reputation to maintain.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.