Dave White
Turbo Review

In the 1961 Disney live-action comedy The Absent-Minded Professor, the professor (Fred MacMurray) invents Flubber and, in one scene, the energizing substance is then affixed to the shoes of a basketball team, allowing them extraordinary jumping ability. It's cheating with chemicals, the Lance-Armstrong-and-too-many-other-athletes-to-name ramifications of which are trumped by the film's good-natured comedy and its oblivious, non-approach to complicated moral issues.

And so it is with Turbo, a sweet children's film about a snail whose name is the title (the voice of Ryan Reynolds) and whose entire existence is consumed with the desire to move fast like a race car (the movie never explains the genesis of this obsession, only that he's in too deep with it and will never be happy until he vrooms across a finish line, any finish line, in record time). Despite the scolding of his more practical snail-brother (Paul Giamatti), Turbo persists in wanting to race. And when our mollusk hero finds himself showered with nitrous oxide in the midst of a mishap involving a muscle car, he becomes the Vin Diesel of superfast-supersnails. Next step? Racing in the Indy 500, of course.

Meanwhile, Tito (Michael Pena), a young man operating a taco stand with his brother (Luis Guzman), finds Turbo and befriends him, deciding to capitalize on the little guy with the speed-infused shell. Off to Indiana go the quixotically enthusiastic pals, where they encounter the danger of being splatted on the track and the intimidation of a villainous race car champion (Bill Hader) whose only true villainy involves wanting to win the race himself.

Kid-movie tropes are on full display for the millionth time: copious amounts of believing in oneself and the seemingly mandatory harboring of oddball, special-snowflake dreams that have no reason to come true, yet also no choice but to be realized. This is the stuff that loudly supplants logic and jovially resists deeper ethical probing, and that is because, don't forget, this is a movie about a cartoon snail that moves at speeds of over 200 mph. You will deal with it at that level or not at all, which is fine -- for now -- for a target demographic of five year olds. It's lovingly made, charmingly if lazily scripted, occasionally funny and always colorful and quick: the kind of thing your uncomplicated spawn will love. And then, 20 years from now, they'll rewatch it and think, "Wait, this movie is about steroids."


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