‘Turbo’ uses an old formula with a new animal species

From left, Chet (voiced by Paul Giamatti) and Turbo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) in 'Turbo' — Courtesy of DreamWorks Animation
From left, Chet (voiced by Paul Giamatti) and Turbo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) in ‘Turbo’ — Courtesy of DreamWorks Animation

There’s nothing terribly wrong with Turbo, the new animated film about a snail who yearns to race cars. The animation style is attractive to the eyes. The laughs are easy to digest. The storyline and characters are passably acceptable. The problem with the film is that the sum of its parts don’t add up to much. There’s a fatal feeling throughout the entire movie that we’ve seen this before, and we’ve seen it done better.

Ryan Reynolds voices the title character, a likable snail who cannot stand the slow-paced life of his species. He’s tired of working in the community and barely out-running the perils of lawnmowers. Like so many animated characters, he wants a different life, something that will offer a faster pace. Despite the protests of his older brother Chet (Paul Giamatti’s voice), Turbo makes for the horizon with no turning back.

It takes an unusual (and somewhat unexplained) series of events for Turbo to find himself with a magical power: He can now race as fast as any human. The inexplicable change from slow snail to fast racer happens rather quickly, and that’s probably a good idea on the part of the creative team. If they focused too much on the mechanics of how this “magic” occurred, they would fall victim to an overbearing amount of exposition. And let’s be honest, having a snail who yearns to race suddenly have the power to compete at the NASCAR level is far too convenient a plot line. Better let this story speed along to its inevitable conclusion.

Along the way, Turbo meets a host of funny supporting characters who believe in his dreams. They all have great names and funny moments, although I’m partial to Snoop Dogg’s Smooth Move. Avid animated fans will probably see one too many parallels between Turbo’s cast of characters and Cars‘ cast of characters, but they say there are only a few original ideas batting around Hollywood.

The voice acting is quality, especially from Reynolds, who has had a rough time in the live-action realm, and Giamatti. The story speeds by at 96 minutes, so Turbo never puts a drain on our attention spans. For youngsters, the movie plays like a fast-paced adventure with comedy pitstops along the way. Everything is formulaic but fun. For adults, it’s an easy way to pass an hour and a half.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Turbo

  • 2013

  • Directed by David Soren

  • Written by Darren Lemke, Robert D. Siegel and Soren

  • Voice talents by Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Samuel L. Jackson and Ken Jeong

  • Running time: 96 minutes

  • Rated PG for some mild action and thematic elements

  • Rating: ★★½☆

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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