Starring : Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph, Ken Jeong, Michael Peña and Luis Guzmán

Director : David Soren

Release Date : 18 Jul 2013

Somehow, snails don’t come to mind when you think of fast cars and fast friends. Yet, that’s what Turbo is all about.

MOTORING mollusc. As incredulous as that may sound, it’s actually the premise of the latest film to come out from DreamWorks’ animation studio.

In Turbo, the folks who brought us Shrek and Madagascar have once again presented an imaginative story that will no doubt thrill the kids, but leave adults feeling rather dubious.

The premise of the show is a relatively simple one. Theo is a young speedster who dreams of competing in one of the most prestigious motorsport events in the world – the Indianapolis 500.

It would have been a viable ambition (apparently in cartoon land, all you need to join the greatest racing spectacle in the world is a driver’s license and a sponsor who’s willing to fork out US$20,000), except for one minute detail: protagonist Theo is a snail.

Yes, we’re talking about the slow-moving, slimy, brown-and-orange kind.

Of course, this being DreamWorks, the slugs have received the fundamental cutesy treatment, complete with colourful Pimp My Ride-esque elements to boot!

That being said, the directorial debut by David Soren is a curious mix between Fast & Furious and Pixar’sRatatouille. While that combination may sound like an interesting formula on paper, it’s marred by a far-fetched plot that stretches the done-to-death “underdog versus the world” concept too thin.

When viewers are first introduced to Theo (Ryan Reynolds), he is a spunky garden snail who spends his nights watching recorded VHS videos of car races, much to the dismay of his practical older brother Chet (voiced by a very cynical Paul Giamatti).

If it were up to Chet, his younger sibling would be better off embracing the dull, miserable nature of a snail’s existence.

Well, dull is perhaps an understatement when it comes to describing the daily life of our animated critters. They spend their mornings harvesting the tomato patch and running safety drills to evade predators like hungry crows and the neighbourhood brat who gets a kick out of crushing little crawlies with his tricycle.

But Theo, who also goes by the nickname Turbo, fancies a life in the fast lane and dreams of racing glory. And in the words of his hero, professional car racer Guy Gagne (comedian Bill Hader putting on a ridiculous French-Canadian accent), “no dream too big, no dreamer too small”.

On the surface, the film presents the wholesome message of nothing is impossible with a willing heart. Except in this case, the ingrained lesson also teaches you that if you can’t overcome your limitations, success is easily attainable when you’re boozed up.

Err ... right, not sure what kind of message that would send out to the kids.

After a series of mishaps, Theo finds himself in the midst of a drag race that would do Vin Diesel proud and gets sucked into the engine where he’s infused with a good dose of nitrous oxide.

Bam! Suddenly our mini adventurer is imbued with Japanese GT car-like qualities that enable him to zoom around at high speed while leaving behind a trail of blue light and blast Run-D.M.C’s It’s Tricky, among other newfound automotive capabilities.

Obviously, with great power comes great responsibility. And when our band of snail brothers run into their downtrodden human counterparts, the dreamer Tito (Michael Peña) and his cautious elder brother Angelo (Luis Guzmán) who operate a failing taco store, Theo takes it upon himself to help them out by (you guessed it) racing in the Indy event.

Outlandish storyline aside, due credit must be given to the animators for creating a visually arresting world that will delight both young and the young at heart. For one, the racing scenes are stunningly electrifying, and when coupled with 3D glasses, make for a pretty exhilarating viewing experience.

Heck, it’s even enough to make you fully awake after the sluggish pace during the beginning of the film.

True to its label as a family-friendly offering, Turbo does have its fair share of endearing moments. The seamless brotherhood chemistry between Theo and Chet will make even the most quarrelsome siblings hug it out and seek truce.

But perhaps the real soul of this animated film is staked upon its all-star voice talents. Chet borders perilously on being annoying, but under the capable hands of Giamatti, the character comes across as kind and genuine.

And expect plenty of comic relief from the daredevil racing snails troupe, which is voiced by the eclectic ensemble of Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz, Michael Bell and Snoop Lion.

Reynolds does OK as the earnest eponymous lead, but let’s face it, the man’s appeal lies more in his chiselled boy-next-door good looks than his vocal aptitude.

With Turbo, DreamWorks has delivered a boy-centric affair with questionable values weaved into its storyline. Like, come on, an inherently slow snail that races against fast cars with the aid of fluid enhancers? Bells should be ringing people.

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