Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Turbo

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for some mild action and thematic elements
Profanity:None
Nudity/Sex:None
Alcohol/Drugs:None
Violence/Scariness:Cartoon peril, characters injured, minor snall characters eaten by birds
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:July 19, 2013
DVD Release Date:November 12, 2013

Who declared this the summer of the animated snails? In Twentieth Century Fox’s “Epic,” a snail and slug duo stole the spotlight from the human characters, even the Beyoncé-voiced nature queen.   The end credits of Pixar’s “Monsters University” features not the movie’s main characters but a cute snail coda.  And now DreamWorks'”Turbo,” one of this year’s best family films, gives racing snails center stage in a story that puts the “go” in escargot.turbo

Ryan Reynolds is Theo, a garden snail who knows to the bottom of his snail-y soul that there is only one thing that will make him happy: “terrifying, terrifying, blazing speed.”  He longingly watches car races on an old VCR, imagining that he is racing alongside French-Canadian Indy 500 champion Guy Gagné (Bill Hader).  When Guy proclaims from the winner’s circle that “no dream is too beeeg and no dreamer is too small,” Theo feels that the message is meant just for him.

But that dream seems far away.  Theo and his very cautious older brother Chet (Paul Giamatti) work at the plant.  Literally.  It is a tomato plant, with an intricate series of conveyer belts to deliver the fresh tomatoes to the snails.  Theo is in charge of rotten tomatoes (possibly a gentle swipe at the popular movie review website of that name) and there is an amusing series of shots with Theo getting repeatedly hit by squishy, overripe fleshy fruit.

Theo gets exposed to a chemical accelerant that hits him like the radioactive spider-bite hit Peter Parker.  When Tito (Michael Peña), half-owner of the Dos Bros taco stand, enters him in a snail race, he zooms across the finish line and changes his name to Turbo to fit his new identity.  Tito and his strip mall neighbors, proprietors of a hobby shop, a nail salon, and a garage, trick up Turbo with a snazzy shell cover and enter him into the Indy 500 race, where, it turns out, you don’t need to have a car, you just need to be fast.  Turbo will be racing against his idol, Guy Gagné.

The movie, it must be said, gets a bit slow in the middle, with too much time spent on the human characters. The economic struggles of the human strip mall denizens are dreary and under-written compared to the big dreams of the little snail. The effort to create a parallel in the strain between the taco-selling brothers of Dos Bros and those of the snail brothers, one adventuresome, one risk-averse,  is labored.

But it picks up every time the racing snails come back on screen, thanks to the adorable character design, with very expressive use of those googly eyes at the end of their antennae, and especially to the voice talent.  Reynolds’ Turbo has a lot of heart and gives a nicely dry twist to lines like, “Let me get my calendar, so I can time you.”  The stand-outs are Giamatti as the perpetually worried but caring Chet and the indispensable Samuel L. Jackson as Whiplash, a racing snail who leads Turbo’s hilarious pit crew.  He’s the snail who has “the skills to pay the bills,” if snails had bills to pay, that is.  “Your trash talk is needlessly complicated,” he crisply advises another racer.  Just hearing Jackson say “I’m going to preTEND I didn’t hear you say that,” coming from the mouth of a snail with a toy race car chassis over his shell, gives the same boost to the movie that the jolt of nitrous gives to Turbo.

Parents should know that this film has some cartoon-style peril and violence, with minor characters getting eaten by birds and hit by a car.

Family discussion:  What do you think separates the ordinary from the extraordinary?  What is your one thing that makes you happy and how will you follow your dream?

If you like this, try: the forthcoming “Turbo” television series and the Pixar classic, “A Bug’s Life”

 



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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment RenegadeX

    Nell, let’s just hope the kids that see this are too young to realize that Theo the snail’s dream of racing against his hero is only made possible through a freak accident that gives him an unnatural advantage. No freak accident, no dream realized. That’s NOT a great message!

    The nitro in ‘Turbo'(the snail, and the movie!) is kind of like telling kids interested in sports “If your dream is to be a superstar, there are products out there than can make you faster” and then showing them dreams CAN be achieved, glory CAN be realized and detractors CAN be quietened as a result of using ‘substances’.

    As adults, we know that’s the unfortunate truth in sports, but we certainly shouldn’t be celebrating it, or appearing to approve of it by taking our little ones to see movies that have that as the message.

    Worse still, in ‘Turbo’ there’s the whole side-plot of exploitation. Tito, the taco shop co-owner who likes to gamble on snail races, snatches Theo, unaware at the time of his unique speed ability. When he realizes what he has, he sees the potential to make big money off him, by making him an Indy500 entrant and then showcasing him at the strip mall. At the end of the movie, viewers are meant to feel warm and fuzzy inside seeing that the plan was a success.

    I know it’s just a light-hearted movie for kids, but really??

    • Nell Minow

      I don’t agree with this analysis, RenegadeX. I understand the issue of performance enhancement drugs is a concern, but in this case it seemed to me that Turbo and the nitro was, as I said, like Peter Parker and the radioactive spider — or Popeye and spinach. Or the “Absent-Minded Professor” and the flubberized basketball team or Mary Poppins’ magic. You could even say that the nitro is Turbo’s “car.” The other drivers have vehicles to race. Turbo just has his car equivalent, which is his souped-up self.

      What makes this clear is the way that the race ends. (SPOILER ALERT) Both Turbo and Guy end up competing on sheer courage, stamina, and determination, each stripped of the thing that makes them go fast.

      And I don’t think Tito is exploiting Turbo. Remember, it is Turbo who gave him the idea. Racing against Guy was Turbo’s dream. He needed Tito to make it possible. I’m not wild about the way Tito and his brother and the rest of the humans were portrayed, but I don’t think the relationship was exploitative.

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