Turbo is yet underdog animated flick, this time about a snail named Theo (Ryan Reynolds) who dreams of competing in the Indy 500, the world’s most prestigious and most competitive racing event. Problem is a) he’s a snail and b) snails aren’t the fastest creatures on the planet (far from it really). One day, however, a freak accident gives Theo (Turbo) the speed and characteristics of a racing car so despite the apprehensions of his well meaning big brother Chet (Paul Giamatti), Turbo tries to make his dream a reality by entering in the race, of course with the support of his newfound friends/ crew.
I should say that the given the amount of animated movies released this year at such close intervals, the bar has been set high. And with each animated flick imrpoving by leaps and bounds with each movie release, producing a perfect hit is great pressure for the studios.
Turbo has all the elements of a standout feature. It has a charming lead character with a strong supporting cast. It has a good storyline. Visually, the graphics were great. I loved the vibrant colors and the direction of the artwork used in the movie. But despite all these, I felt that there was just not enough juice in tank for this Dreamworks offering to blow audiences out of their minds.
Don’t get me wrong. Turbo is a pretty decent animated feature and I have no doubt kids would totally enjoy the references and parallelisms between the racing world and the life of a typical garden snail (or what we perceive it to be anyhow). On the plus side, what Turbo has going for it is a strong core story that people can relate to. We all have that one impossible dream that we don’t always believe we can achieve, and in this regard, we see Turbo in all of us. In this sense, we connect with the character. There is also a sense of vulnerability in the film that is quite endearing. I, for one liked the parallel experiences of Turbo and Tito (Michael Pena) with their brothers Chet and Antonio and the love that is obvious in both sets of siblings despite the disagreements.
I also loved the comedic references to movies like The Fast and the Furious and the manner in which it was executed by Whiplash (voiced by Samuel Jackson) and his crew Smoove Move (Snoop Dogg), Burn (Maya Rudolph), Skidmark (Ben Scwartz) and White Shadow (Mike Bell) and thought it was really fun in the exagerrated over the top way. The voice actors gave so much of their personalities to their performance, which made the film more enjoyable.
On the downside, Turbo had too much elements that were similar to Cars, a Disney-Pixar blockbuster from several years ago — Turbo for Lightning McQueen, Whiplash to Doc, and the run down Starlight Plaza to the forgotten Route 66 that it gets pretty hard not to compare the two. And in this context, I’m not really sure that Turbo comes out as the winner because Cars hit the right note on just about every level. I think that with these much aspects in common, Turbo should not have simply stayed safe and pushed the character development further. It also did not help that the underdog concept was not very original to begin with so filmmakers should have really thought out of the box in terms of creatives. Its an animated flick, for kids and the possibilities were really limitless.
All in all, Turbo was a pretty solid standalone that had its heart in the right place, although there was a lot of potential that remained unexplored. Dreamworks is working its way there and I believe with a little more push, there is a lot yet from this studio that we can expect.