“Turbo”: An Incredibly Fast Snail and Some Social Commentary

Though Dreamworks' Turbo is being promoted as an animated parody of the Fast & Furious series, its story of a snail called Turbo (Ryan Reynolds) who dreams of racing in the Indianapolis 500 and teams up with Tito, a human with equally big dreams (Michael Peña), is closer in spirit to Pixar's Ratatouille. (A better model than Cars, definitely.) Turbo is co-written by Robert Siegel, screenwriter of The Wrestler and writer-director of the far superior Big Fan, which may account for Turbo's sense of being set in the real world, anthropomorphic snails notwithstanding: Tito is Mexican-American, and he and his brother Angelo (Luis Guzman) run a taco shop in a decaying Van Nuys strip mall. Though set in the present day — a smartphone video of the snail goes viral, then gets auto-tuned within minutes — Tito and Angelo use '90s-vintage cellphones and green-and-white dot-matrix printer paper. These are minor details, but the human protagonists being underrepresented people raises Turbo's emotional stakes, no small feat for a movie about a snail that can go 200 mph after an accidental nitrous oxide infusion. That superhero element does make Turbo's oft-stated “no dream is too big” theme a bit of a cheat, but on the other hand, there's a great telenovela joke. So it all evens out.

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