TurbocoverGrade:  B
Entire family:  Yes
2013, 96 min., Color
Rated PG for some mild and thematic elements
DreamWorks Animation
Aspect ratio:  2.35:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HD MA 7.1
Includes:  Blu-ray, DVD, UV Digital HD copy
Bonus features:  C

In a familiar premise, Turbo (Ryan Reynolds) wants more out of life than what his biological limitations or station in life will allow. His is the same spirit that made man want to fly—only this fellow would probably settle for a good crisp walking pace.

Turbo is a snail that happens to be a huge racing fan, especially of the Indy 500 and perennial winner Guy Gagné (Bill Hader). The arrogant Gagné mugs for cameras and says all the right things to stay in the spotlight, including the kind of inspirational dream-big quotes that fill Turbo’s head with fantastic ideas that he can somehow become faster than he is.

That kind of thinking can you killed, and it takes his brother (Paul Giamatti) to save him from the blades of a lawn mower when a test “sprint” puts him in danger.

So how do you have a story about a snail who dreams of speed turn into something other than a downer? Of course you have a Spider-Man type of transformation, where nitrous oxide (yep, laughing gas) somehow boosts Turbo’s power the way, in liquid form, it sometimes increases the power of racing engines.

What an increase! Turbo now can move at such a pace that all you see is a blue streak. But what a far-fetched journey he takes to realize his dream! Of course this snail will be discovered at a snail race run by a half-partner in a taco business, and sure he’ll somehow communicate to this guy that he wants to race in the Indy 500, so why wouldn’t this kindly Mexican try to officially enter him in the race? And why wouldn’t the world watch this freakish phenomenon with grand interest? 

TurboscreenTurbo is turbo-charged with energy, colorful details, and enthusiasm. It’s the kind of film that will grab young viewers, and the racing scenes are every bit as spectacular as what we saw in Cars.

Yet, Turbo is a prisoner of its preposterous premise, because it takes so much creative energy just to make the main narrative remotely plausible that there’s clearly little left in the tank to come up with inventive side plots, sight gags, witty dialogue, and the kind of allusions that hold adults’ attention. A running gag about crows carrying off a snail one at a time is funny, but we could have used more of that sort of thing. There are some allusions and playful embracing of cultural stereotypes, but nothing near the cleverness of Disney’s Rattatouille—a similar tale about a rat whose passion was gourmet food, not garbage, and who dreamed of being a chef.

But Turbo is much stronger than Disney’s Planes, and while parents may wonder if it’s the right message to send youngsters that no dream is too big for the dreamer—What about the kid with two left feet who aspires to be a dancer, the would-be pro baseball player with no natural athletic ability or coordination, or the wannabe rock star who can’t carry a tune?—Turbo is still a solid pick for family movie night. Adults and the teen and ‘tween in our family all liked it well enough to watch it again.