Directed by: David Soren
Cast: (Voices of) Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Maya Rudolph, Richard Jenkins
Running Time: 1 hrs 36 mins
Release Date: July 17, 2013
PLOT: A garden snail named Theo later nicknamed “Turbo” (Reynolds) gains speedy powers when he inhales NOS gas. He is captured by a young taco entrepreneur named Tito (Peña) who enrolls the snail to compete in the Indy 500.
WHO’S IT FOR? With its cutesy thin concept, Turbo is much more tipped towards children who do not ask questions than it is ticket-purchasing adults. Parents will only get pithy pop culture references, and a depressing “Who’s Who” of recognizing Turbo’s voice talents.
EXPECTATIONS: Before going in, my brain swirled on this type of thought: “A story about a speedy snail has to be more than just that, right? After all, it’s co-written by Robert D. Siegel, who wrote The Wrestler.” In this regard, my expectations were a bit wider than they perhaps should have been.
Ryan Reynolds as Theo/Turbo: Theo is a snail who wants to be fast. This may sound like repeating the movie’s plot, but actually is laying bare of every characteristic to this lazy creation, as reconciled by Reynolds’ indifferent voicing. I’d rather have Will Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
Paul Giamatti as Chet: Despite working with woefully uninspired storytelling, Giamatti’s casting is one of Turbo’s brighter glimmers. When listening to his disapproving snail brother of a character, one can clearly visualize him in the booth, likely bearded, flaring his way through loud bits of dialogue. Giamatti does here what he is hired to do by a lot of live-action movies, and for much less money – he raises his voice, and commands people when he is not fidgeting his way through lower register barks. But this time, he’s a snail!
Rest of Cast: The most depressing voice-over work of 2013 (so far, at least) can be found in Richard Jenkins’ line-reading, which must have only been inspired by crushing defeat in the recording booth. He delivers lines for his shop-owner character such as “This is even bigger than Hobby Con!” like an actor tiresome of the whole concept of life. Voice talents like Samuel L. Jackson as another snail and Peña as jolly Tito are fine in the bigger picture, and Maya Rudolph and Snoop Dogg are sufferable as their largely insignificant other mollusks. But the movie’s biggest offender is Ken Jeong. In a movie that at least feigns playing nice to different ethnicities, such efforts are completely disregarded with Jeong’s heavily stereotyped character. In his most shrill voice possible, Jeong represents the Asian race with his impression of a grouchy old woman who runs a nail salon. Yikes.
TALKING: In terms of the fertile ground that is snail-related puns, one has to express disappointment as the otherwise cheesy Turbo maintains a mistaken sense of pride against numerous potential zingers. The best we get from this opportunity is “snailed it!” as remarked by Rudolph’s sexy snail. Aside from that, the dialogue of Turbo is cotton candy. Phrases like “no dream too big, no dreamer too small” function both as immediate poster taglines and pithy
SIGHTS: The animation of Turbo certainly keeps with the high standards of detail and depth continually pushed by its marquee competitors. If one were only able to slowly take in all of the design in the film’s racing scenes, Turbo might have a chance of seeming more like a special movie. As also goes the case with these high visual standards, Turbo uses its strongest talents for weak jokes, which often overshadow even the film’s flashy heavily labored sequences.
SOUNDS: The Turbo soundtrack is primarily used to make for secondary reasons, such as slapping in dumb jokes (there’s two, maybe three references to Rocky and “Eye of the Tiger”) or filling up audio space while audience members should be doing something else, such as when Snoop Dogg’s “Let the Bass Go” plays over the closing credits. Turbo tries to sell ringtones as well as its merchandising with a stupid montage in which internet video clips of the title snail leads to an autotuned version of said original clip. That being said, gimmicky 2010-era tune “That Snail is Fast” plays repeatedly and obnoxiously throughout the movie, as if it intends to haunt the viewer with its overwhelming cheesiness.
BEST SCENE: With little intentional humor to be found throughout, at least the third act’s racing sequence in the Indy 500 provides impressive visuals, and also the small tease that maybe someone will crush this rulebook-trolling snail.
ENDING: In an unexplained act of witchcraft, Turbo’s shell magically heals itself, while the other snails get revved up with their own gizmos. A second story is teased, with a hint that the single joke of this snail tale will not be modified.
QUESTIONS: Who thought it would be a good idea to have Turbo inhale NOS-gas to obtain his super powers? Such a bizarre choice can only be compared to the original concept of having Marty McFly time travel by jumping into a magic refrigerator. Why does no one bother with crushing Turbo with the intent of defying any public outcry by simply claiming it was an accident?
REWATCHABILITY: No thanks. Kids might want to watch it again, but then again I do not understand the film taste of children.
The fun of watching a story with Turbo would be giving it that 1/1,000,000,000,000,000,000 benefit of a doubt that it actually could happen. It is the minuscule “maybe” that inspires imagination regardless of a concept’s craziness. After all, toys came to life in Toy Story, along with another zillion of examples.
With Turbo, there is very little to toy with our imagination, even with the vivid animation artistry at play that tells our eyeballs and brains directly what it looks like when a snail runs in the Indy 500. This movie lacks such creativity in its direct characters and its dad-joke of a plot that Turbo itself doesn’t even have fun asking the crucial question of “What if?” with its silly joke. Instead, the sole goal is to shovel things into the audience until they leave, whether it’s pathetic attempts at current humor, an uninspired story, whimsical dreamer nonsense, or extensive product placement.
With no understanding or care for its preposterously big dream, Turbo is a story that thinks incredibly small.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10