DreamWorks Animation / 2013 / 96 mins / PG
Turbo feels like the parody that everybody likes to make about animated films. Here we have a young snail (Ryan Reynolds) who dreams of becoming a famous racing champion, but his naturally slow speed hinders his goals and brings only scoff from his fellow snails. But with some luck, courage and a freak accident involving nitro, the little snail who dubs himself Turbo will achieve his aspiration of competing in the Indianapolis 500 racing event. That sounds safe enough to pitch, right?
The story of Turbo isn't particularly bad as it follows most of the correct steps for creating an animated film with a strong theme. The cast of snails is well-cast with Ryan Reynolds voicing the cocky Turbo, Paul Giamatti as the constantly nervous Chet, Samuel L Jackson as the loud and authoritative Whiplash and Snoop Dogg plays Smoove Move well as...well, Snoop Dogg. Even the human characters are well cast with Michael Pena as the Mexican taco merchant who believes in Turbo and Ken Jeong perfectly performs the squat Asian beauty consultant, Kim Ly. Also, let's not forget the animation which is gorgeously shot during the racing sequences.
But Turbo could've tapped on the brakes a little to make this story really work. Maybe it's fitting with the theme of the movie, but everything moves so fast that we never really have a moment to enjoy the characters or the story. The movie seems so focused on hitting on all the correct beats that it forgets what makes those elements work so well. For instance, there is a romance between Chet and Burn which hardly ever evolves that by the end it makes you scratch your head trying to figure out how these two ended up together.
There are also a lot of interesting elements that are just quickly glazed over as when Turbo actually gains his powers of super-speed. It's never really fully explained how these powers came to be or if it carries any dangers. The movie just wants to jump to the race as quickly as possible. Don't get me wrong; the race is fairly cool, but the lack of detail and development for getting to that point gives off the impression that the characters are only secondary.
If only Turbo had slowed down enough to stop and take in the grandeur, it could've been a real stand-out. Because, honestly, I want to love of a film about a speedy snail who competes in a race and saves a strip mall. Unfortunately, it goes down a predictable path with few stand-out moments that most adults could predict the entire story of the film without having seen it. Even so, it's still a harmless cartoon that will no doubt please most kids with the colorful designs and fast pace.
DreamWorks animations always lend themselves well to Blu-ray and Turbo is no exception. The 1080p transfer perfectly highlights the colorful array of bright snail characters and the 7.1 Master audio has plenty of great racetrack sound effects to really immerse you into the film.
There is a surprising number of extras on this Blu-ray release. One of the most elaborate being "Champion's Corner", a parody racing special featuring a post-race interview with Turbo. There are a few behind the scenes features including deleted scenes and an elaborately detailed storyboard sequence of the moment when Turbo gains his powers.
Additionally, there are a few segments with the artists on how to draw certain characters. The rest of extras are a bunch of kid-friendly activities including a music maker and snail racing shell creator.
Turbo follows the animated movie formula so well that it ends up being a better assembled "project"... than a truly engaging story. It manages to hit most of the right notes with some great animation and good use of its cast, but it's ultimately still lacking that little something extra to make it really shine. It's nowhere near as big a disappointment as I was expecting, but it's certainly far from being an animated classic. All I can give is a passive recommendation for the kids.