Theo (Ryan Reynolds) is a garden snail who dreams of a bigger life or, more accurately, a faster one. When a freak accident leaves him with super speed, Theo – who renames himself Turbo – finally sees the path to his dreams open before him, but he may need a little help.
If you’re thinking that the plot for Turbo feels familiar, you’d be right. As the film goes on, it becomes clear that Turbo borrows liberally from other animated works – Ratatouille and Cars come to mind – and it is fairly obvious that DreamWorks have accepted that one of the things that makes Pixar films great is the attention to detail, which is definitely on show here.
The voice actors – Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph, Samuel L. Jackson, Ken Jeong – do a great job with voicing their characters. Their timing is brilliant and Jackson gets some of the best lines in the film; ‘Your trash talk is needlessly complicated’ is a standout. Reynolds and Giamatti work well together, with the latter’s voice suiting his character as the world weary snail, Chet.
The story is where we start to run into trouble. It is easy for the audience to accept that, like many superheroes, Theo’s powers come from a freak accident, but once the worlds of escargot and car racing combine, many of the audience members may give it up as a bad job. There is plenty here that has been inspired by other films, and the parallels to Disney’s Planes are all too… um… plain (sorry!) as the protagonist is revealed to be a small town creature with big dreams. That said, the film’s dark humour – which will be far too dark for the littl’uns to get… I hope – leads to plenty of laughs, as do the aforementioned one-liners.
Although director David Soren has been involved in many animated outings in the past, this is his first feature length film and the first film he has written with original characters. The dialogue is great in places and the story is cute enough, but the pacing of the film is where it really suffers. It takes a good half hour for the film to get going, then it stops and starts many times through it’s 96 minute running time, making it feel way longer than it actually is. The good news is that the animation is lovely as usual, but the 3D is redundant, also as usual.
In all, Turbo is a film that feels instantly familiar, however this may go in favour of the film at the box office. David Soren’s influences are clear, as the story is one we have seen a million times before – with some oddly underdeveloped supporting characters – but the dialogue is actually pretty good and the film is funnier than you might think. Reynolds and Giamatti stand out in a film that is sweet and familiar, but somehow unmemorable. Oh, and if the idea that a snail dreams of entering the Indie 500 is too much, then this is not the film for you. The kids may like it, but the film may struggle to hold their attention in places. Fort the adults, this is nothing new.