Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Visually colourful but narratively bland."

There's a moment early in David Soren's film when sensible snail Chet (Paul Giamatti, hang dog even when you can't see him) teases his younger brother Theo (Ryan Reynolds) about the predictability of the Indianapolis 500 - "left turn, left turn, left turn". Unfortunately, the same charge could be levelled at this visually colourful but narratively bland animation as it takes a speedy but unsurprising turn around the familiar children's story circuit.

Like most younger brothers, Theo doesn't care what Chet thinks. After all, his dreams of becoming the world-renowned Turbo, squaring up against his French speed idol Guy Gagné (Bill Hader), are just about all that gets him through his drab workdays at the (tomato) plant. Given that it takes Theo 17 minutes to get from one end of a ruler to another, it seems Chet could be right - until an accident with a street race car's engine has suprising consequences that sees Theo live up to his preferred nickname, Turbo, and the brothers whisked away on adventure with a crew of racing snails. Your brain doesn't need to be turbo-charged to work out where this is going and the stage is soon set for a David and Goliath style head-to-head.

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Before all that, though, is the obligatory bonding and soul-searching - although this is strictly of the simple for-six-year-olds sort. Turbo needs to learn how to be a team player - step forward the snail posse of Whiplash (Samuel L Jackson), Smoove Move (Snoop Dogg), Skidmark, Burn (Maya Rudolph) and White Shadow (Michael Bell, who gets the best running, er, crawling gag of the film) - and Chet needs to learn to dream a little. Meanwhile, in an unnecessary doubling up of the brotherly difficulties plotline, snail racer and taco truck driver Tito (Michael Peña) tries to prove to his older, more sensible brother (Luis Guzmán) that sometimes thinking big can work.

Shall we gloss over the fact that of 13 main characters only three are female - and only one of them is a snail, who comes in a depressing shade of pink? And, no, making one of the other two representatives a car mechanic (Paz, Michelle Rodriguez on vocals) does not compensate. Even the film's official website seems apologetic about it with its "Though she's the only female snail... Burn has no trouble in holding her own". Where's Merida when you need her?

There's also the issue of sponsorship. It may be lampooned in a scene near the beginning of the film in which Turbo is chugging back a high-energy concoction but the product placement here is so in-your-face they even fit a phone plug in before the film starts. On the plus side, the scripting from Soren, Robert D Siegel (Big Fan, The Wrestler) and Darren Lemke (Jack The Giant Slayer) has a decent laugh ratio for adults, while the bright blaze of the racetrack sequences is likely to keep kids contented enough on a visual level, even if there is little of substance here. Turbo zips through your brain without leaving a mark.

Reviewed on: 15 Oct 2013
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A snail dreams of winning the Indy 500
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Director: David Soren

Writer: Darren Lemke, Robert D Siegel, David Soren

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Samuel L Jackson, Luis Guzmán, Bill Hader, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, Mario Andretti, Mike Bell, Aidan Andrews

Year: 2013

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


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