Who would have thought a movie about snails could be fun, or least more entertaining than one could be lead to believe? I didn’t when I first saw the ads for Turbo, a CGI-animated flick from DreamWorks. Then I saw the actual movie… and I liked it. It’s not perfect, being neither Toy-Story smart nor Rango pretty, but something about it won me over.
It centers on the titular gastropod (Ryan Reynolds), a garden snail who dreams of being a racer, much to the chagrin of his brother (Paul Giamatti) and other fellow snails. He gets his wish one night after being doused with nitrous oxide, then gets captured by a nice-guy taco-truck driver (Michael Peña) who likes to race snails, and eventually winds up competing in the Indy 500.
Beyond the amusement of the concept that one of the slowest creatures on Earth wants to go really fast, the underdog story unfolds very much like you would expect—including Reynolds and Peña having the same dream-squashing-family problem—while also recycling elements from Cars, Toy Story and, of course, the Fast and the Furious flicks.
Despite that, there’s quite a bit to like here. Director and co-writer David Soren inserts any number of humorous conceits, from the way the snails gather tomatoes and get randomly picked off by crows to how Turbo takes on the characteristics of a car after his N20 exposure. And while the movie in general is not especially photogenic, seeing a supercharger from a snail’s perspective is pretty neat.
What the movie has that a lot of animated flicks don’t nowadays is some actual emotional substance. Most of the credit for that, I think, goes to Giamatti, who lends more depth than is probably necessary to a talking version of a creature that leaves a trail of slime as it moves. He also gets the film’s biggest laughs, in particular whenever people have trouble guessing his gender.
As well Reynolds is the perfect fit for his daredevil-with-big-dreams character, exuding energy and restlessness. Of the rest of the voice actors, Peña creates a nicely sympathetic big-dreams guy, Ken Jeong and Bill Hader amuse as, respectively, an Asian lady manicurist and an egotistical French Indy champion, and Samuel L. Jackson oozes natural badassness as a street-smart snail. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 11/12/13