Movie review: 'Turbo' races in a field of dreams


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You may have been unaware of this until now, but in certain backrooms in shady parts of town, there are people, who must have a lot of extra time on their hands, presiding over snail races.

At least that's what occurs in the DreamWorks animated adventure "Turbo," a summer entry that like most movies starring bugs is fashioned for the wee ones.

Theo (voice of Ryan Reynolds) is a simple garden snail with impossible dreams of becoming an Indy racer on account of his fascination with driver Guy Gagne (Bill Hader). It rightly earns him the laughter and scorn of his snail community, which works a modest tomato patch where it's preyed upon by crows, lawn mowers and a mean kid with a Big Wheel.


'Turbo'

3 stars = Good
Ratings explained

  • Voices of:

    Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti.

  • Rating:

    PG for some mild action and thematic elements.


Theo's ambitions are particularly troubling to his brother, Chet, who is a hilarious ball of anxiety played to perfection by the guy who does this better than anyone, Paul Giamatti.

Thanks to the crow factor, a snail's life can change in a heartbeat, and so Theo suddenly finds himself in a scene right out of "Grease" in the dusty LA River. There, he's accidentally infused with nitrous oxide, aka laughing gas, which apparently will give a snail race-car characteristics (kids, don't try that at home). He goes from doing a yardstick in 17 minutes to blasting off at a lightning 200 mph.

When Theo and Chet are kidnapped by Tito (Michael Pena), a good-natured taco truck driver, they end up at Dos Bros taco shop, where they encounter a funky bunch of urban snail racers including Whiplash and Smoove Move. That would be Samuel L. Jackson and Snoop Dogg, respectively, in a PG movie that could very well have been a G.

Theo's change of scenery from suburban lawn to inner city also allows for a lively change of soundtrack to incorporate the likes of Snoop, House of Pain and Run-DMC.

With his crazy, get-rich schemes, Tito turns out to be the ideal kidnapper, giving Theo, who takes the name Turbo, a shot at competing in the Indy 500, a treacherous course even for a supernatural animated snail. At stake, along with Turbo's dream, is the fate of the taco shop and its faltering neighbors in the Starlight Plaza.

There's nothing more predictable than a racing movie, and we've seen this plot so many times (minus, of course, the snail), but first-time director David Soren does succeed in throwing some creative twists into the finale.

Parents will like the message for kids that they should pursue their dreams, setting aside Turbo's use of a powerful oxidizer that Indy, in this case, did not test for. Everyone will like the humor that we've come to expect from Mr. Giamatti, Mr. Jackson and Snoop. On top of that, if you could steal the show from a pack of talking racing snails, Tito and his long-suffering partner/brother, Angelo (Luis Guzman), at Dos Bros tacos would be contenders. They are characters we probably wouldn't mind seeing again.

Opens in theaters today.

moviereviews

Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576.


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