Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: Animation, Family
Run Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes, Rated PG
Starring (voices of): Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Pena, Samuel L. Jackson, Luis Guzman, Bill Hader, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez
Directed by David Soren (feature-film debut)
Conceptually speaking, Turbo (opening today) seems built for some serious box office speed. It features a traffic jam of A-list voice-talent like Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Samuel L. Jackson, Snoop Dogg and Bill Hader, it looks great in 3D and it barrels full-steam ahead at a breakneck pace sure to excite most adrenaline-junkies or NASCAR fans.. But not so fast: For all of Turbo's ferociousness, it travels upon roads that we've been down many times before, in better films, from A Bug's Life to Cars to countless others.
It's not exactly a lemon, but it's close.
Turbo is a snail, living in a snail community but dreaming of larger things. He watches old tapes of professional race car drivers in a garage and imagines himself a speedster. He has even painted a racing number on his shell. When he wanders away from home, he winds up quite literally taking a nitrous-boost that alters the very core of his being. He awakes to find that he has inherited incredible speed. More than that, he seems to have mutated into a vehicle/snail hybrid of some sort, complete with eye head-lights, flashing turn signals and a bumping system.
Um, OK. Fair enough. It is a kid's movie after all. When he is snatched up by one half of the "Dos Bros Tacos" traveling taco stand, his friends helps him to use these silly and new abilities to work his way into the Indy 500 - the biggest race of them all - to compete against his hero, Guy Gagne (Bill Hader).
Sadly, Turbo blows a tire quite early. Despite looking pretty slick, this film suffers from a lack of ingenuity, putting speed ahead of its characters and its wholesome messages. It also features some of the most uninteresting, under-developed and annoying supporting characters maybe ever. When Turbo befriends a band of racing snails - voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Michelle Rodriguez, Ben Schwartz, Mike Bell and Maya Rudolph - they fight for screen time while spouting one unfunny one-liner after another. Only Paul Giamatti - voicing Turbo's best pal and brother snail - seems fit for an animated avatar.
But even though Turbo's DNA is shown changing into electric blue, when he's racing his body seems to operate more like a machine, sputtering and wheezing like a tired engine. Is it too much for movies these days to make sense within themselves? The Little Mermaid may not be the world's greatest animated movie (although it's close), but at least when Ariel's voice was taken away, we didn't see her chatting it up a few scenes later. That kind of obvious attention to detail simply seems to have gone the way of the dodo in today's movies.
Turbo does deserve credit for maintaining an action-packed pace nearly from the start. This should please any male audience member who fancies The Fast & Furious as a good time out. But women and girls beware: The only female characters in Turbo are shoved to the shoulder. There's no love interest for Turbo, a mother figure, or anything. There is little room for anything but adrenaline and testosterone here. Much like a man-cave, women are all but locked out of Turbo.
There is some clever dialogue and some exciting sequences, but mainly Turbo seems to lap endlessly on familiar ground, never quite stopping long enough to make sense of itself or to find its bearings.
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