If you want to reinforce your kid’s sense of entitlement, Turbo is the movie for you. Derivative and bland, Turbo teaches kids that if you can dream it, you can and SHOULD have it.
The Plot. Turbo is about a snail, Theo (Ryan Reynolds), who dreams of becoming a speed racer. The other snails in the garden mock Theo while his older, responsible (boring) brother Chet (Paul Giamatti), tries to convince Theo to conform. When Theo gets sucked into a race-car engine, he magically gains super speed. Theo, now “Turbo”, and brother Chet end up in a failing strip mall. There, Turbo enters a snail racing circuit. When one of the human shopkeepers – – the dreamy-eyed Tito – – discovers Turbo’s speed, he hatches a zany plan to have Turbo race in the Indianapolis 500. It will be a publicity coup so that Turbo’s sponsors, the mall’s motley crew of shopkeepers (an old hobbyist guy! a sassy, Asian grandma! a woman automechanic!), can finally attract customers to their failing businesses. Will Turbo triumph? Of course! Along the way, he befriends a group of racer snails (led by Samuel L. Jackson), faces off against a famous French race car driver (Bill Hader), and learns . . . absolutely nothing.
And that’s the problem! Turbo borrows shamelessly from Cars, but it has none of that earlier movie’s soul. The abandoned strip mall is a stand-in for the abandoned Radiator Springs. And Turbo, like Lightning McQueen, starts out as a fundamentally self-involved narcissist obsessed with glory. But the resemblance ends there. Lighting McQueen grew; Turbo doesn’t. Turbo wants speed. He gets it through a fluke, and then he grabs the spotlight. That’s all. His success is meaningless because he doesn’t earn it. We never see him practice or hone his skills. And he doesn’t care about any of the characters around him. We are supposed to care about Turbo – – to be excited about him – – because he gets attention, lots of attention. He becomes a web sensation and gets publicity. That’s it. No craft, effort or purpose except self-aggrandizement. He’s a Kardashian.
But will your kids LIKE this tripe? Oh yes. Kids will enjoy the battles between Turbo and brother Chet (what younger brother hasn’t dreamed of being validated/worshipped by his older sib?). They’ll like Samuel L. Jackson’s souped-up, racing snails. And they’ll get a kick out of the shopkeepers, led by an old lady, Asian nail salon owner (Ken Jeong – – the best thing in this movie). The animation is passable (though nowhere near Pixar’s caliber), and the pacing just right to keep young butts in seats.
There’s nothing to scare or offend here: nothing but shallow values, a boring protagonist, and a lackluster script. Save it for a rental if you must.
Better yet – – skip this flick altogether and rewatch Cars. Or, if your kids are old enough (10 and up), try a real underdog movie: Breaking Away.