Writing about a film like Turbo is more an existential crisis than an exercise in film criticism, because what, exactly, does one say about a movie like this? What we have is nothing more than generic animated fare: colorful, with a few name voice actors and a premise tailored to generate toy sales and video games. Its message is harmless and its originality nearly nonexistent, making for an unmemorable animated feature. Even if you ignore Turbo’s $130 million price tag, you’re still left with a movie that lacks inspiration on every level.
The film is laboriously set up, as we meet Turbo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), a normal, run-of-the-mill garden snail with a love of auto racing and dreams of a bigger life. His days are spent working in a tomato garden with his by-the-book brother Chet (voiced by Paul Giamatti), though Turbo he spends his time idolizing famous auto racer Guy Gagne (voiced by Bill Hader) and wishing he, too, could go faster. Of course, everyone’s a naysayer, for obvious reasons, but after a freak accident involving some drag racers and a dose of nitrous oxide, Turbo is imbued with the powers of, yes, a car, right down to eyes that can turn into headlights and the ability to go really, really fast. And after a run-in with small-time taco magnate Tito (Michael Pena) and a small escargatoire of comic-relief snails, Turbo finds himself on the unlikely road to the Indy 500.
Yes, it’s as silly as it sounds (the film makes a point to mention that there’s nothing in the rules stating a hyper-fast snail can’t enter the race), and — much like Indianapolis Motor Speedway — goes exactly where you expect it. There’s a nice montage in the middle of the film involving Tito and his neighbors that touches on the crippling nature of ennui (a worthy idea for a movie of this nature, let me tell you), but it soon passes, and the movie’s one surprise has come and gone. The rest of the film is your basic follow-your-dreams fare (that is, follow your dreams as long as you’ve been mutated by a freak accident involving performance-enhancing chemicals). All of this is as unexcitingly admirable as it is trite — a word that, coincidentally, describes Turbo perfectly. Rated PG for some mild action and thematic elements.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande