If there is one thing you can safely assume where Turbo is concerned, is that this David Soren picture will find an audience, with a concept that brings together two genres that kids (and adults) love: the superhero flick, and the sports movie. The fact this snail has magical powers will attract a certain audience, and the conventional competition aspects will attract others. However whether either audience will leave completely enthralled is another matter entirely.
Turbo (Ryan Reynolds) is a snail who dreams of being fast. Fed up of moving around so slowly, he one day hopes to compete in the Indy 500 race. However as his older brother Chet (Paul Giamatti) continuously reminds him, he’s just a garden snail and needs to come back down to earth. That is, however, until he finds himself caught in the engine of a fast car, where a freak accident gives him a superpower, making him the fastest snail in the world. When he is found by Tito (Michael Peña), the co-owner of an unsuccessful Mexican restaurant, the idealist pair decide to enter the Indy 500, and fulfil their seemingly impossible dreams.
Picking a snail as the protagonist for this piece is an effective one, as they represent the ultimate underdog: They are terribly slow, kids stand on them just for kicks, crows eat them for breakfast and the French for dinner, allowing us to fully root for their cause. That said, by using snails it does have a weakness too, as they are the inherent underdogs for a reason; they’re not particularly likeable. This may sound rather silly given it’s a children’s animation, but such a sentiment comes across in the film, as you struggle to feel fully endeared to our leads given they’re snails. Call it a mild form of animal prejudice.
What is endearing, however, is the relationship between siblings Turbo and Chet, offering a nice family dynamic, and one shadowed by that of Tito and his brother Angelo (Luis Guzmán), in a film that is as much about these brotherly relationships as it is about winning the race. The voice cast are fantastic too, and though Reynolds is underused, thankfully we hear enough of Giamatti and Samuel L. Jackson (playing Whiplash) to keep us entertained.
Another positive comes in the form of the races themselves, which look incredible up on the big screen, with a powerful sound design that ensures you’re kept captivated throughout, and immersed in the contest. However what we don’t get from the racing sequences is any palpable emotion. We see so much of Turbo’s anxiety and determination to one day be fast, however when he becomes a star the attention in the story shifts elsewhere and we don’t truly get the chance to see what it truly means to him to be the racer he had always dreamt of being. We may build up to it, but we don’t explore it anywhere near enough.
Soren manages to dip into various themes, dealing with both the fun, adventurous aspects with the more poignant, heartwarming side too, yet doesn’t excel in either in a way that Pixar so often manage with their titles. Though kids of 10 years old or so are bound to love this film (that’s what matters, really), sadly the generic, unoriginal nature to this film leaves the adult audience left wanting.