Film review: TURBO from Built For Speed

Regardless of the studio creating them, a lot of big-budget animated films are starting to look very similar.  The well-worn plot template sees an innocent, loveable character with an ability to drive or fly quickly, aspire to break free of their staid conservative environment and against all odds and warnings from friends and family, compete in a dangerous high-stakes race.  DreamWorks’ latest animated film Turbo follows the formula to the letter except that it has the cute novelty of making the speed demon hero the world’s slowest creature, the snail.

Title character Turbo or Theo (Ryan Reynolds) is a motor racing-obsessed snail living in a quiet garden community with his brother Chet (Paul Giamatti).  When he’s not watching his Indy 500 hero Guy Gagne on TV, Theo like the other snails, spends his life slithering around the garden munching on tomatoes and trying to avoid being gobbled up by hungry crows or being squashed by the evil child next door.  In a transformation that harks back to any number of superhero origin stories or drugs in sport controversies, Theo is one day sucked into the engine of a high octane muscle car engine where his body is infused with nitrous oxide giving him super speed.  With the ability to move as fast as his petrol head heroes, Turbo decides to risk his life and enter the Indy 500.

Adults and probably children will know exactly how this film will turn out but that won’t detract from the fun they will have along the way.  After a sedate start the film’s intensity and excitement steadily builds as Turbo prepares to make his treacherous motor racing debut. Kids will be thrilled by the sight of a cute little snail zooming around the tracks at super-sonic speed leaving grumpy adult characters in his wake.  All of this is realised through remarkable animation which thankfully still has warmth despite its astonishing clarity, realism and intricate detail.  Scriptwriters Darren Lemke, Robert D. Siegel and David Soren also pepper the action with clever G-rated gags that will delight the kids and occasionally amuse the adults.

Ryan Reynolds does a much better job here as the voice of a cartoon snail than he did as a cop in the lamentable RIPD.  He makes Turbo an endearing character that audiences of all ages will care about.  As his nervous, risk-averse brother Chet, the always-excellent Paul Giamatti has that wonderful mix of wisdom and nerdy charm.  Turbo’s pit-crew, which includes Snoop Dogg as rapping snail Smoove Moove, contains a few too many characters so not all of them have the chance to make an impression.  Still, as the voice of their leader, Whiplash, Samuel L Jackson is once again terrific with that magnificent stentorian voice and no BS street-smart attitude.

Unfortunately, though, the film occasionally relies on cringe-worthy racial stereotypes with Turbo’s team including two clutzy taco-selling Mexican brothers voiced by Luis Gusman and Micheal Pena and a diminutive Asian woman voiced by The Hangover’s Ken Jeong in an over the top style very similar to Jeong’s Mr Chow character.  Let’s hope animated films can move past these clichés.

Some questionable characters and familiar plot lines aside, Turbo is a fun, technically impressive piece of modern animation that will have the kids mesmerised for 96 minutes before they gleefully run amok impersonating their lovable shelled hero.

Nick’s rating: Three stars.

Classification: G.

Director(s): David Soren.

Release date: 19th Sept 2013.

Running time: 96 mins.


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