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“Turbo,” released in theaters Wednesday by DreamWorks, is a colorful, forgettable flick about a snail who wants to compete in the Indianapolis 500—which he does thanks to a series of coincidences, lucky breaks, and questionable rule calls. It’s the kind of film where the lead character gets to achieve a dream not by serious effort or brain work, but simply by wanting it badly enough and having supportive friends.
How does a snail end up serving as an Indy car? Do you really want to ask that? A better question is why the screenwriters and director wait so long to introduce potentially fun characters and then do nothing fun with them. Or why the film that should be exhilarating is so devoid of laughs and/or joy.
Turbo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) and his human supporter Tito (Michael Pena) both are likable but bland. The snail’s protective older brother Chet (Paul Giamatti) is underwritten to a point of near disappearance. And a gang of fellow escargots (led by Samuel L. Jackson) seem designed for Happy Meals rather than populating a movie.
It is nice to see Indy on screen, of course. And the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—at least, its animated equivalent—looks terrific and is treated with the reverence of Hinkle Fieldhouse in “Hoosiers.” Early in the film, the snails’ work life at “the plant” is creatively presented—although that world is abandoned early in the film for other locales. The animation is first rate, but that’s not surprising anymore. I saw it in standard 2-D. Your mileage may vary.
Six-year-olds may leave the theater ready for a race. Adults may find themselves napping (perchance to dream about a grown-up serpentine sequel; "Snake Pit," anyone?).