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‘Turbo’ will entertain the elementary school set

By Christopher K. Conner

Dreamworks’ “Turbo” follows Theo, an unhappy garden snail voiced by Ryan Reynolds, as he dreams of speed and winning the Indy 500. Not content to work in the tomato garden with his brother Chet (Paul Giomatti) and the other snails, Theo is continuously lost in daydreams of racing. One day his daydreams nearly get him killed by a lawnmower and he wanders off in despair.

A series of freak events leads the hapless snail to be sucked into the engine of a hot rod and his body becomes infused with nitrous oxide, leading him to manifest a set of car-like abilities. Most significantly, Theo is now faster than most streetcars, but his speed causes him to wreck the garden and nearly kill the other snails. Because of his continual mistakes, the snail foreman fires him and his brother.

Now jobless, they don’t think things can get any worse until Chet is picked up by one of the crows that regularly steals snails from the garden. Theo uses his new abilities to follow the crow and eventually to free his brother from the clutches of three crows fighting each other for the snail.

The two snail brothers end up being captured by Tito (Michael Peña) the enthusiastic half of Dos Bros Tacos and are brought to the snail races the shop operators of a dying strip mall have in the evenings to pass the time. There they meet Whiplash (Samuel L. Jackson) and his crew of racing snails. Finally given a venue to show off his skills, Theo, now calling himself Turbo, rockets through the race. Seeing a way to attract business to his brother’s Taco business, Tito plans to showcase the world’s fastest snail.

Turbo uses his speed and glowing trail to suggest that Tito enter him in the the Indy 500. When his brother Angelo (Luis Guzman) refuses to front the twenty thousand dollar entrance fee, Tito pitches his plan to the other vendors in the strip mall. Initially skeptical, the others end up fronting the money, along with the life savings Tito took from Angelo, they have the money to get to Indianapolis and pay the entry fee.

Along the way, Chet tries to explain how foolish the idea of Theo racing against cars is, but none of the other snails, and certainly none of the humans, on the trip seem to see it Chet’s way. Turbo continues to fantasize about meeting his hero Guy Gagné (Bill Hader).

When they arrive, Tito is unable to convince Indy officials to allow him to enter a snail in the race. Working together the snails manage to get Turbo onto the track and he runs a lap just a few miles per hour under that of Gagné, himself. Video of the lap goes viral and soon there is enough pressure that the Indy CEO is forced to schedule a press conference regarding the entry. When it appears the CEO is not going to let Turbo race, public outcry, including Gagné, changes his decision and Turbo is allowed to compete.

The night before the race Turbo sneaks into Gagné’s garage and sees the multiple trophies. Gagné catches Turbo there and, not realizing that the snail could understand him, reveals the true nature of his interest in the snail’s race appearance. Turbo is left to wrestle with his idealized image of his hero and the person that he really is.

Like most of the animated movies released this year, “Turbo” uses family relationships as a means to get an emotional investment from the parts of the audience that wouldn’t normally root for an unusual protagonist. In this case there are two parallel relationships between a dreaming brother and a more grounded one. The nature of this class of relationship is quite different than the parent-child relationships of other flicks and doesn’t seem as important or powerful here.

“Turbo” is lacking much in the way of surprises. The plot is predictable and the tension level leading up to the race is not very high because the consequences of failure just aren’t that important.

Plot exhaustion aside, “Turbo” is a well produced film that does the job of entertaining the elementary school set without being overly cutesy or devoid of comedy adults can appreciate. My six and seven year olds enjoyed it. My son even decided being a snail must be cool.

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