Sunday, July 21, 2013

TURBO: "Cars" for Even Younger Kids

July 21, 2013

The trailer of this new Dreamworks animated film did not really make me interested to watch because I thought the whole racing snail story would be corny. However, my kids insisted and there were some favorable initial reviews, so I reluctantly gave it a go and hoped to be pleasantly surprised.

"Turbo" is about Theo, a garden snail obsessed about car racing and being fast. He accidentally ingests nitrous oxide and develops amazing race car powers. A luckless taco shop owner Tito picks Theo up for his hobby of racing snails, and discovers Theo's incredible speedy abilities. Eventually, Theo (now re-named Turbo) actually qualifies to race against his racing idol, the five-time champion Guy Gagne, in the Indianapolis 500. Can this phenomenal little snail now finally fulfill his dream of winning a big league car race?

The topic of car racing had already been tackled very well in Pixar's "Cars". If "Cars" was for kids, "Turbo" is targeted for even younger kids. More than just the car racing, the side story about the deserted mini-mall in Van Nuys, California where Tito's taco shop is located, was also obviously inspired by the town of Radiator Springs in "Cars." 

The scenes showing how Theo was inspired to keep reaching for his dreams from a French champion on a TV monitor was reminiscent of "Ratatouille."  The scenes showing how Theo got his powers, with the nerve axons and red blood cells being chemically revitalized, was straight out of "Spider- Man". 

I did not really get the whole snails working together to gather tomatoes thing. It might have worked in "A Bug's Life", but I did not know snails ever worked like ants. I could imagine how encountering a huge army of snails in a small tomato patch like that would probably look pretty scary in real life.

On the positive side, "Turbo" manages to tell a good story about brotherly support in the parallel stories of Theo and his brother Chet, and Tito and his brother Anton. One brother is the whimsical dreamer, while the other is the more grounded practical one. They may see things differently, but in the end, brotherly love would prevail.

Of course, the showcase of the whole film is still the big race. We all root for the underdog, don't we?  The execution of the race sequence was thrilling and exciting, especially the final laps. While the climactic moment in "Cars" is still better, but this one in "Turbo" still manages to hold its own with its unique "Tuck and Roll" charm.

As a whole though, I found the film's pace leading to the climactic race quite slow for a movie about speed. I was disappointed about how the Guy Gagne character was developed as a stereotype, when it could have been more original. The voice work was by big stars like Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti and Samuel L. Jackson. They were all okay, but nothing really distinct and memorable stood out.

Kids will surely enjoy this cute little film delightful. Parents will just have to summon their inner child out in order to enjoy it with them. 6/10.

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