At the age of two my son Elijah would stand beneath the local basketball hoop and keep shooting until he was out of breath. The basketball never made it more than a foot over his head, at best, but that didn’t stop him from trying.
The same goes for our hero in the new animated tale “Turbo.”
Theo, or Turbo as he likes to be called, practices racing every day even though he moves at a snail’s pace. He’s a garden snail, after all, so speed is not exactly his thing. He dreams big all the same, and after a run-in with a nitrous oxide tank his racing dreams start to come through.
“Turbo,” from the same studio which gave us the “Madagascar” franchise, is a delightful tale driven by strong vocal performances and its never say quit protagonist. Turbo (Ryan Reynolds) fantasizes about zooming along with the likes of his Indy 500 heroes when an accident grants him super speed.
He ends up meeting a kind-hearted taco vendor named Tito (Michael Pena) along with a gaggle of revved-up snails (led by Samuel L. Jackson). Turbo’s new friends help him get closer to his goals, but will the big-hearted snail have the horsepower to make it to the finish line?
“Turbo” cannot match the giddy greatness of the best Pixar films, the gold standard for modern animation. That doesn’t mean it lacks heart, humor or pitch perfect casting. Consider Paul Giamatti, who voices Turbo’s uptight brother, along with a supporting squad including Ken Jeong, Maya Rudolph and Snoop Lion.
Bill Hader’s performance as Guy Gagne, the racing legend whose path crosses Turbo’s in the exciting finale, deserves singular praise.
Parents won’t find any unnecessary potty humor here, and an early sequence reminds us that pursuing your dreams can be dangerous at times, a nice lesson for tykes who long to fly like Superman.
Reynolds’ sly humor isn’t fully tapped by the film’s creative team, and the movie’s mid-section suffers from a lack of narrative fuel. Still, it brings a positive message to movie houses, teems with colorful characters and may make your children look at snails in a whole new light.