Directed by David Soren. Voices by Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Luis Guzman, Bill Hader, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Patrick Bell. (2013, PG, 96 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 19, 2013
”No dream is too big, no dreamer too small,” proclaims the race-car driver Guy Gagné (voiced by Hader) in this animated movie. Those words are taken to heart by Turbo (voiced by Reynolds), a suburban garden snail who dreams of winning the Indianapolis 500. An impossible dream, of course, but we’re in the world of cartoons, and Turbo is a real little engine that could. One day, Turbo wanders away from his mollusk community’s tomato patch and gets sucked into the manifold of a car engaged in a street race. Although Turbo survives the trauma, the nitrous fumes magically transform the tiny snail into a racing machine from his goggle-eyed headlights to his rear-motion alert signal. Running away from home again, Turbo is rescued by Tito (Peña), a man who drives a taco truck but races snails for entertainment. Together, they get a shot at accomplishing their dreams.
The plot of this latest release from DreamWorks Animation isn’t terribly original, but it’s serviceable, and the images are bright and lively and accompanied by solid vocal work. The racing scenes are fast if not furious, and lots of nice, small touches dot the landscape. The supporting characters add a lot of color to the proceedings, ranging from Turbo’s safety-obsessed mollusk brother Chet (Giamatti) to the cadre of Tito’s racing snails (Jackson, Rudolph, Snoop Dogg, Schwartz, and Bell) and the human owners of the businesses in the rundown shopping plaza where Tito and his brother Angelo (Guzmán) make their tacos (Jeong, Rodriguez, Jenkins). By the time Turbo reaches the finish line, this new iteration of the fable about pursuing one’s dreams no matter how unlikely they seem joins the winner’s circle without quite nabbing the trophy.