As I said with my Croods review, I’ve been more and more impressed with the quality of films coming out of Dreamworks for the last few years. They’re not all hits, but few of them have been downright terrible. In my mind, they have been doing far superior work than Pixar, which has been a continuous decline in terms of creating engaging characters and storytelling. Turbo is a cute, charming story, with some great visuals, and an exciting third act race. It’s not always as hilarious as it could be, but the characters are enjoyable to watch and overall it’s just a really fun time.
One of the major aspects of the movie that works is the relationship between the pair of brothers in the film, the snails Theo (Turbo) and Chet, and Hispanic human brothers Tito and Angelo. One of course is a dreamer while the other is a realist, trying to keep the other grounded in the reality of their situation. One needs to get over their a snail, not a race car, and the other needs to live with the fact that they sell tacos, not enrolling snails in the Indy 500. Which dreamer has the craziest dream? Who knows, but it’s clear that Turbo and Tito are made for each other the moment they meet. Turbo wants to be fast, despite his snail life, and dreams of racing all the time. He especially admires his racing idol Guy Gang’e, the world champion racer at the Indy 500. Turbo winds up getting his wish, when stuck on a car in a street race, he gets sucked into the engine, gets nitroed up in a special fluid, and gains the power of super speed. In some aspects he gets literally turned into a racing car, with headlights (his eyes), backing lights, a car alarm, and blasting radio. Gotta love it when someone’s not afraid to take some cartoon license. Tito’s dream is to enter his new snail pal Turbo into the Indy 500, with the help of raising cash from other businesses in their outdoor mall plaza.
If I had any gripes with the film, it’s just one I have about animated films in general, in that I sometimes wish these movies could be a lot funnier. Not in a way that abandons kids with the humor, but I sometimes get the feeling that there could be so much more potential from the comedy, as opposed to characters just verbally cracking jokes. It’s animation after all, and there should be the potential for far more physical comedy, especially for a movie about a speedy snail. It’s the things we come to expect from animated films today…more talking and less action, and it’s something I hope to one day see change.
I suppose my only other complaint about the film was the need to make Guy Gang’e into a villain. I’m not surprised they did this because there really isn’t anyone else playing as a main antagonist, but I think it’s worth pointing out that not all animated films need a villain. In the race in the third act, Gang’e doesn’t really do anything “bad” to get in Turbo’s way…well, with the exception of trying to stomp on him to keep him from winning at the last minute. But that’s also out of desperation. The majority of the obstacles come from the race itself as Turbo has to keep from getting run over among other things. Even though Gang’e is an antagonist because he’s racing against Turbo, it doesn’t mean he has to be a bad guy. This is similar to the problem I had with “Rise of the Guardians” where the Boogyman was made evil and shown a lack of compassion for his situation by the heroes at the end of the movie. I sometimes think it would be better and more constructive to show kids that antagonist characters aren’t inherently evil, but that they are people who are hurt or have problems like anyone else. Making them one sided villains doesn’t give you anything to identify with, and it’s something most American animated films should change, giving us villains that have other sides to them and may not necessarily be bad.
Turbo is an entertaining ride, with some great enjoyable characters. The visuals and racing sequences are fantastic and entertaining. It’s not the greatest movie ever, but it’s a fun enjoyable ride that can be enjoyed by adults and kids of all ages.