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Turbo (2013)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/12/2013

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/18/2013

Regular visitors to DVDSleuth.com know that my go-to complaint about most movies is that the story isn't original enough. I realize that I'm not the only critic to harp on this point, but the countless retreads which we get from Hollywood is my pet peeve. So, what's almost as bad as an unoriginal movie? -- One which takes an original idea and runs too far with it. While we often feel that most writers are being held-back, some films don't know when to quit and move into an area which loses the audience. This is just one of the problems with the animated adventure Turbo.

Turbo introduces us to Theo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), a snail who prefers to go by the name Turbo. Turbo is obsessed with open-wheel racing and he fancies himself to be a fast snail. Unfortunately, Turbo leads a very boring life working in a tomato garden alongside his brother, Chet (voiced by Paul Giamatti), who constantly chastises Turbo for wanting something different out of life. One night, Turbo goes to watch the traffic from an overpass, and he accidentally falls into a car engine, where he ingests nitrous oxide. This gives him the abilities of a car, most importantly speed. While demonstrating this skill, Turbo and Chet finds themselves in a strange part of town, where they are captured by Tito (voiced by Michael Pena), who is instantly taken by Turbo's speed. At first, Tito sees Turbo as a way to promote the taco stand he runs with his brother, Angelo (voiced by Luis Guzman), but he soon realizes that he can help Turbo fulfill his dream of racing in the Indianapolis 500.

Some movies are inscrutable, but for most, it's easy to see from where the main idea originated. For Turbo, it's very simple -- a snail who wants to go fast. Boom, perfect, that's a classic fairy tale idea if I've ever heard one. A story like this will need a voice of dissent, and we get that with Chet. Turbo will need someone who believes in him. Normally, this would be a love interest, but Tito fills in just fine. So, we have a story which -- in a fantasy way -- rings true and has some of the necessary ingredients.

For the next step, it makes sense that Turbo would require a challenge. In this instance, he needs to be in a race. But, here's where the movie goes too far. This is ostensibly a children's movie -- How many kids have heard of The Indianapolis 500? Furthermore, how many of them care about it. A quick search engine check reveals that the television ratings for the 2013 Indy 500 were the second worst in 27 years. It's not a great leap to say that the race isn't what it used to be. As Pixar's Cars took place in a world which was clearly meant to mimic NASCAR, Turbo clearly couldn't go there, but the Indy 500 doesn't seem like the right choice. Not only is the race not as popular as it used to be, having a snail compete in a 500 mile race seems a bit far-fetched for a movie which is already pretty far-fetched to begin with.

However, beyond some of those ideas, Turbo feels a little too familiar. The way in which Turbo idolizes Indy driver Guy Gagne (voiced by Bill Hader) is reminiscent of how Remy the rat watched Auguste the chef on TV in Ratatouille. (And while I realize that this movie is a fantasy, it never even tries to explain to us how Turbo is utilizing a TV and a VCR to watch Gagne in action.) In addition, the fact that Turbo enters the 500 reminded me of 2005's Racing Stripes, in which a zebra entered a horse race. I realize that those animals are similar, but it's another case of something doesn't belong becoming part of a race.

The movie also tries to be working too hard to be multi-cultural. These days, no movie wants to be the one singled out for having an all-white cast, but Turbo's attempts to cover all of the bases feels hollow and pandering. The strip-mall where the Hispanic characters Tito and Angelo have their taco stand is also inhabited by Paz (voiced by Michelle Rodriguez), a Latina mechanic, Kim Ly (voiced by Ken Jeong), an Asian nail salon owner, and Bobby (voiced by Richard Jenkins), a nerdy white guy who runs a hobby store. The movie seems to be waving its arms and screaming, "Hey, look how diverse we are!" without giving any real explanation for it. Is snail-racing really popular in the inner-city in L.A.?

All of this is a shame, as Turbo could have been an interesting, family-friendly film. Turbo himself is about as cute as an animated snail can be, and the array of supporting characters is interesting, most notably White Shadow (voiced by Michael Patrick Bell). The movie does have some funny moments, and Reynolds does a fine voice in the lead. But, the film simply asks the audience to accept way to much on the surface and anyone who doesn't foresee the dilemma which Turbo will face in the end has apparently never seen a movie. Al, the notion of Turbo getting super-speed is one thing -- him getting headlights and a built-in car stereo is dimwitted. My big fear is that kids will now drink nitrous oxide in hopes of getting super powers.

Turbo made me crave Mexican food on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look fantastic, most notably the blues and greens, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The crispness of the image provides a very detailed picture and we can see the intricacies which went into the animation. The image has a nice amount of depth, even in this 2D version. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would hope, the race scenes sound great. As the cars pass, we are treated to detailed stereo effects which show nice separation. In addition, the sound moves from the front to the rear channels with ease, and get very detailed effects from the surround speakers. The subwoofer also gets in on the act, as we feel the roar of the engines.

The Turbo Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extras. "Champion's Corner" (5 minutes) is a fake sports show in which Turbo is interviewed. This also includes footage of real Indy cars. "Smoove Move's Music Maker" (13 minutes) is a series of six music video which use songs and images from the movie. "Team Turbo: Tricked Out" (3 minutes) examines the specific look of each of the film's snails. The Disc contains one DELETED SCENE which runs about 2 minutes, including an introduction Director David Soren. This is presented in animatic form. We get a "Storyboard Sequence" (2 minutes) for the scene in which Turbo gets his powers. "Be an Artist!" (1 hour) has animator David Burgess demonstrating how to draw eight of the characters, including two versions of Turbo. "Shell Creator" is a set-top activity game. The final extra is a THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2013 by Mike Long