MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
Ryan Reynolds as TURBO
Paul Giamatti as CHET
Michael Peña as TITO
Samuel L. Jackson as WHIPLASH
Luis Guzmán as ANGELO
Bill Hader as GUY GAGNE
Snoop Dogg as SMOOVE MOVE
Directed by: David Soren
BY KEVIN CARR
I’m a huge animation fan. Anyone who knows me and has seen my Top 10 lists of most years will realize this. Usually, there’s at least two or three animated films that reach the top of my list each year. However, 2013 has been a relatively weak year for animation. It’s not just Pixar, but DreamWorks and Sony Pictures Animation as well.
However, at the same time, there hasn’t been a real terrible animated film, either… unless you count “Free Birds,” which I don’t because that’s really harmless compared to the godawfulness of something like “Shark Tale” or “Planet 51.”
There seemed to be more animated films in 2013, and they were all falling closer to the middle than the extremes. Perhaps that’s a lull in the studio programming, at least I hope that’s the case rather than it becoming the rule. Still, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy most of what was released, at least to a certain degree.
“Turbo” is, at the very least, a unique movie. While it draws from the same well as Pixar’s “Cars” and not-Pixar’s “Planes,” as well as the general “reach for your dreams” message in many children’s movies, it presents things in a very different light. This both gives the film a unique quality and makes it a terribly hard sell at the same time.
The story follows a garden snail who dreams of becoming a race car driver. After being banished from the garden for daydreaming on the job, he literally falls into the engine of a street-racing car, and his body becomes infused with the power of the race car.
Okay, I know… this is a stretch. And what happens next is even more off the reservation. Bear with me.
With his newfound powers, the snail convinces a taco truck driver to drive him from Los Angeles to Indiana to compete in the Indianapolis 500. With the power of speed and a dream in his heart, this fast little snail goes head-to-head with the greatest race car drivers on the planet.
The biggest problem with “Turbo” is getting past this wholly ludicrous premise. I know animation often relies on a certain wealth of suspension of disbelief. However, this story just gets too hard to swallow. As it moves along, from a community of snails to magical race car powers to stumbling across a souped up group of snails to convincing the taco truck owner he can race to entering the actual Indianapolis 500, “Turbo” keeps throwing ridiculous plot points at you. Unlike a film like “Monsters University,” which has an equally ludicrous premise that it pitches in the trailers and at the onset of the film, “Turbo” keeps asking you to stretch your believability.
But… if you can get past the premise and internalize it, “Turbo” can be a lot of fun. Kids will, of course, be more accepting of a film like this, and that’s really who it is made for. The movie draws from other films, like the obvious Nascar-inspired “Cars” but also the live-action “Talladega Nights” (including an almost-criminally similar climax), but it handles these elements well in its own plot.
The voice cast performs well, with plenty of recognizable actors behind them. In the end, “Turbo” is a very cute movie with lots of great animation and elements that the kids are going to love. It’s just a bit hard to swallow.
The Blu-ray comes with a DVD as well as UltraViolet streaming capabilities. Bonus features include a look at the racing highlights with Paul Page in “Champions Corner,” “a deleted scene, storyboard sequences, an hour of “Be An Artist!” videos showing how to draw the characters and a jukebox feature called “Smooth Move’s Music Maker.” There’s also a set-top game that lets you design your own racing snail, a look at the other snails in “Team Turbo: Tricked Out” and the featurette “World of DreamWorks Animation” about the studio’s animation arm.