You ever hear the saying, “This is about as much fun as watching snails race?” Well “Turbo,” the latest flick from DreamWorks Animation, is literally about a racing snail. It’s also about as fascinating as watching paint dry or watching grass grow. Sitting in the theater, you never feel like you’re observing an animated feature from the edgy, satirical, pop-culture savvy folks at DreamWorks. You feel like you’re watching a cartoon with a thin premise on Nickelodeon. In other words, save your time, save your money, and stream it for the kids when it’s on Netflix in several months.
Ryan Reynolds provides the voice of Theo, aka Turbo, a snail who dreams of being fast and furious. His idol is a French-Canadian Indy 500 champion named Guy Gagne, who’s supplied with one of the many diverse voices in Bill Hader’s repertoire. Turbo’s brother, Chet (Paul Giamatti), insists that he give up this inaccessible dream and focus on working at the plant, which is a garden where snails harvest tomatoes. Ha, ha. Turbo is on the verge of giving up until his DNA is altered by nitrous oxide. Instead of killing him, this turns Turbo into a supercharged snail with headlight eyes, car blinkers, and rapid speed.
If you think that’s as silly as the plot gets, believe me, it gets much sillier. Turbo is picked up by Tito, a jolly Mexican voiced by Michael Peña, who just happens to race snails as a hobby. When Tito sees what Turbo can do, he decides to take a chance at entering the snail in the Indy 500. That may sound preposterous, but if the Air Bud dog could play basketball, football, soccer, baseball, and volleyball, nothing’s too contrived. The real question is why the government isn’t interested in dissecting this high-speed snail.
On the road, Turbo also manages to pick up a pit crew of fellow snails with a need for speed. They’re voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph, Michael Bell and Ben Schwartz, although remembering their names is a challenge. They’re all pretty forgettable, lacking any personalities, and can only be told apart by their colors. Like most of the characters in those “Cars” movies, the only reason they really exist is to sell more toys. Collect them all in a McDonald’s Happy Meal.
OK, maybe I’m being too hard on “Turbo.” Sure, the premise may be stupid. Sure, the plot follows that same exact formula as “Ratatouille.” At the same time, however, the film makes good use of the animation format, the colors are bright, the actors do good voice-over work, and the moral is a decent one for kids. It’s a cute movie, but not funny enough, smart enough, or charming enough to win over anybody over 10. “Turbo” could have been worse, though. It could have been a spin-off of “Cars” with living planes. So what’s the next animated movie on the agenda?
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.