by Laurie Coker
DreamWorks Animation might actually catch up with the quality of Pixar. Their newest offering pleases young and old, with a tiny hero and his big dream. In this highly engaging tale, we find ourselves cheering for the little guy in a big way. My guests for this fun film ranged in age from two to nine, and I bet I was as entertained as any of them. Droll humor and colorful characters, even with its bizarre premise, make Turbo a welcome repose for families from the hot days of summer.
Theo, aka Turbo (voiced by ), longs for life beyond the garden where he and other snails “harvest” tomatoes in the daily grind. He whiles away his evenings in a shed, watching VHS tapes of old Indy 500 races on a dated television, and there he dreams of greatness. His far more practical and pretty pessimistic brother, Chet (perfectly voiced by Paul Giamatti), scoffs at him and encourages Turbo to grow up and face his life – one riddled with dullness and various hazards which threaten a snails life, like mowers and crows. But Turbo won’t be discouraged. One night after his prized television breaks and his brother offers a dose of reality, Turbo ventures out to a busy road where he falls off of an overpass and is sucked through the engine of a street racer, tumbling helplessly though the engine and into its fuel. When he is blown out the other end, he discovers he has super snail speed.
Somehow, Turbo ends up in a rundown strip mall, filled with quirky folks and a taco truck business owned by Angelo (Luis Guzman), whose brother, Tito (Michael Pe), discovers Turbo’s talent. Through a series of completely ridiculous and implausible events, Turbo is allowed into the Indianapolis 500, where he faces his idol, Guy (pronounced Gee) Gagné (hilariously voiced by Bill Hader), the egomaniacal reigning champion.
When Turbo isn’t moving at breakneck speed, the wonderful voice cast, which also includes Richard Jenkins, Michelle Rodriguez, Ken Joeng, Snoop Dog, and Samuel L. Jackson, keeps things fun and fresh. This is definitely a film for the kids – I’d even narrow it down to ten and under – and the four with me did not care one bit that Turbo’s epic journey is wholly implausible. My brood giggled when Angelo tucked Turbo into bed with a taco sauce packet pillow and a warm tortilla blanket and cheered for Turbo when he raced. Screenwriter Darren Lemke does keep in mind that parents will see this too and his script has enough zing to hold their interest; Michael Bell’s White Shadow character is a hoot and the adult-geared jokes are all in good taste.
Turbo’s creators please with vivid 3D animation (although I could have done without it), paying attention to minute details in facial features and expressions. They envision a wonderful world in the tomato patch and every other locale is perfectly presented too. I am placing a B+ in my grade book. While the cast pleases and the animation is excellent, Turbo’s silliness and simplicity — which did appeal to my two-year-old granddaughter’s sensibilities and attention span — keep it from being exceptional, but then, for its target audience, it works!