There's an undeniable Ratatouille-meets-Cars vibe that runs through David Soren's family-friendly animated film Turbo, but thankfully he also whips up a classic Warner Bros. feel in the opening act. The main character, a snail (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) whose nickname gives the movie its title, dreams of being able to run -- or slide, however it is that snails move -- superfast. This leads to some amusing sequences in which we're shown how fast Turbo thinks he's moving, and his actual, well, snail's pace.
His worrywart brother Chet (Paul Giamatti) is forever exasperated that Turbo doesn't just accept his life. However, when Turbo finds himself unexpectedly piggybacking on a souped-up street-racing car, he gets trapped inside the engine as the driver fires up a nitrous-oxide injection that -- as The Fast and the Furious films have taught us -- drenches our hero and gives him the ability to travel more than 200 miles per hour. He also inadvertently broadcasts radio signals, usually of classic rap or rock tunes.
Turbo eventually meets up with a human named Tito (Michael Pena), who runs a struggling Mexican restaurant with his brother out of a run-down strip-mall populated with other failing businesses. Tito dreams big, and when he discovers the snail’s talent he convinces himself that if they can get other people to come see Turbo, they can all save their shops. To that end, they attempt to enter him in the Indianapolis 500, in which the snail will have to race against his idol, multiple Indy 500 champ Guy Gagne (Bill Hader).
The best aspect of Turbo, and the pun here is unintentional, is that it moves. The script and the filmmakers glide breezily and efficiently through the story, constantly changing the stakes and the characters' goals so that we don't have time to get bored. In addition to the visual gags about the relative speed of snails, Soren and his crew have fun with the 3D element of the film, allowing us to travel with Turbo as he races under the speeding Indy cars or squeeze with him between the wall and the whirring tires that are constantly throwing debris at him and us.
The performances are uniformly solid. Ryan Reynolds has a knack for preventing earnest aspirationalism from sounding like a fortune cookie, Giamatti frets like a pro, and Snoop Dogg is on hand to do what Snoop Dogg does.
If there's a fault to Turbo, it’s the standard-issue lesson about believing in yourself and staying true to your family. That said, at least it doesn't dress these overused homilies up as anything profound. Turbo accomplishes what it sets out to do -- it will entertain kids, and it won't make parents feel ripped off.
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