A typical sports movie with sports movie clichés up the butt, starring fast snails voiced by some truly impeccable talents such as Samuel L. Jackson and Snoop Lion.
Clearly we have a cinematic masterpiece, right? Continuing “The Year of Standards,” we have Dreamworks taking a stab at a sports movie as Turbo stars an overly energetic snail named Turbo (Ryan Reynolds), who ingests a huge amount of Nitrous Oxide by accident and becomes the fastest snail alive. With the help of a taco kiosk owner named Tito (Michael Peña), his brother Chet (Paul Giamatti), and a ragtag team of forgettable action snails, Turbo plans to take part in the Indy 500 and go up against his hero, the Indy 500 champion Guy Gagné (Bill Hader).
After giving that brief overview of the setup, what do you think happens in this movie? From start to finish? You can guess almost every major plot point right? The montage prepping for the big race, the fight with the family member telling the underdog he shouldn’t race, the family member leaving before the big race because “They’re scared to see them get hurt.” It’s all those clichés and more but with snails.
From a narrative level though I gotta give Turbo a passing grade. There’s nothing bad, strcuture wise, about it. All the dialogue is written competently enough to move the plot along, and works well with the story structure, making a clear and coherent narrative that kids can enjoy. Parents on the other hand will roll their eyes at the “hip” dialogue coming from the forgettable action snails but it’s completely harmless overall. However forget these minor grievances, I’m the type of guy who looks for really good things in movies so let’s push that way and discuss the theme of brothers. We have two sets of brothers in Turbo, Turbo and Chet and Tito and his brother, Angelo. These two sets of brothers are used as mirroring narratives. One focusing on Turbo going for his dream and Chet learning to take risks and believe in his brother, and the other is Tito and Angelo bringing new business to their taco stand and their friends’ nearby businesses.
Both plotlines I feel really demonstrate an understanding for the brother-brother relationship and conveying it in a fun way. Although my favorite brothers are Tito and Angelo, because while these two can have a quiet scene together that builds character through body language and subtext, Chet and Turbo are handcuffed to the sports movie cliché. So, Chet will endlessly parrot how Turbo is being too reckless, insane and blah blah blah. It’s to the point where Chet doesn’t act like a brother but more just Turbo’s nagging girlfriend.
Now onto the animation side, Dreamworks has constantly spectacular animation and Turbo goes for a very cartoonier and rounder style then usual. All the humans have exaggerated body types, from super skinny, buff, short, and fat and these exagerations are the same for the snails too. But moving past the cartoony aesthetic the animation during all the racing scenes does give the viewer a sense of true velocity, impact and force as Turbo speeds through the movie. So animation gets two big thumbs up from me but the really important question is, what about the overall movie? I said it myself, it’s your traditional sports racing movie. No surprises whatsoever. So why should you watch it?
I guess all I can say is that the movie is harmless; while it treads old tired ground it does so with care, intelligence and some neat tricks in its back pocket. While it’s not an “OMG You Got’Z Ta see this” movie, I say it’s a fun movie for kids, and an enjoyable movie for parents that they can sit through and not be completely turned off by it. If racing snails sounds at all interesting to you then race on down and get a copy of Turbo.
Written by: Taylor “Whyboy” Wyatt