In animation shorthand, Turbo is Cars with snails. Its light on the jokes, but cute, with animation so vivid it looks photo-real.
Its another impossible dream tale, this time of a motorhead mollusk that has a need for terrifying, blinding speed. Theo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) is an auto-racing obsessed garden snail that longs to escape his colony of tomato-munchers. The occasional terror by a Big Wheel-riding tyke nicknamed Shell Crusher and the odd assault by crows is the only excitement in this over-organized, limited world.
Theo watches races on TV and works hard to improve his time over the measured yard 17 minutes is a personal best.
Speed? Its in me, declares Theo, who prefers the nickname Turbo. Its not, says his brother Chet (Paul Giamatti), who knows what hes talking about. Not every dream is meant to come true.
Turbo is constantly taking risks that are sure to shorten his life, and sometimes even he can see that. Dejected, he slimes his way to the dry bed of the Los Angeles River, where hes caught up in some drag racing and is sucked into the turbocharger of a nitrous oxide-boosted Camaro.
Darned if he isnt transformed into the Worlds Fastest Snail, sliming a literal blue streak down L.A. streets and up L.A. walls.
Darned if a Latino taco maker (Michael Peña) doesnt enter Turbo in his rundown strip malls nightly snail races. Darned if Turbo doesnt chew up the souped-up local snails, led by Whiplash (Samuel L. Jackson) and including Smoove Move (Snoop Dogg).
And darned if that doesnt have the taco maker and his fellow failing small business owners (Ken Jeong of The Hangover voices a nail parlor operator, Richard Jenkins a hobby-shop owner and Michelle Rodriguez an auto body shop operator) thinking Indianapolis 500.
The first big laughs arrive when Jacksons character purrs that Turbo has clearly got the skills to pay the bills If snails had bills. Bill Hader vamps up the French Indy car champ who inspires Turbo but who could not bear to lose to a snail in The Brickyard.
The situations are more amusing than the dialogue and shrieking Jeong one-liners. And as vivid as the race scenes are zooming over, through and under Indy cars if we want to watch photo-real auto-racing we can turn on the TV.
So while small children may be enchanted by this little gastropod that could, adults will be more sorely tested. For all the horsepower Turbo boasts about, the movie tends toward the sluggish as in slow as a slug.