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When confronted with a bizarre and outlandish premise, viewers are always better off just going with it. Without fully buying in, it’s extremely hard, perhaps even impossible, for a film to have any kind of real impact. So, if all of the toys talk and move around whenever humans leave the room, that altered reality should be accepted and even embraced. If a hideous old woman stinking of smoke decides her life goal is to turn 101 puppies into a really gaudy coat, it’s best to take her villainy seriously without thinking of how goofy her pursuit is. And if a snail decides he wants to race in the Indianapolis 500, we should be willing to wave the checkered flag.
So, no, Turbo’s outlandish premise is not a dealbreaker, contrary to what your more cynical friends might say. The basic story follows that aforementioned snail named Turbo (Ryan Reynolds), as he dreams of a life with a little more pace. His slow-moving and conservative brother Chet (Paul Giamatti) is as happy with the status quo as everyone else in the community, but for Turbo, who is obsessed with racing, he needs a little something more. During a mini-adventure, he gets exactly that. Through some questionable science (that you should just go with), our hero gets sucked into a drag racer’s supercharger and nitrous oxide winds up in his blood stream, turning him into the fastest snail in the entire world. By chance, Turbo winds up getting adopted by bumbling taco stand co-owner Tito (Michael Pena), who puts him into a snail race, and not long after, the goal turns into racing in the Indianapolis 500.
Turbo could be a pretty sweet movie about overcoming the odds, but it's slowed down by more than its share of ill-advised congestion. At a brisk 96 minutes, too many characters are introduced to properly get to know or appreciate them all. As a first time theatrical director, Soren occasionally chooses to implement dialogue and strange graphics to generate laughs, but since he doesn’t do it often enough, these moments don’t really flow with the basic tone created. And perhaps most egregiously of all, the humor, while always well-intentioned, is a little obvious and disappears for several extended stretches. Altogether, it should be enough to please the youngest theatergoers and keep their parents from tearing out their hair, but with a few altered choices, it could have been something more than aggressively average. It could have popped.
That’s the single biggest problem Turbo has: It doesn’t pop. It doesn’t do any one single thing well enough to stand out from the pack. Sure, it’s kind of amusing, features some chaotic animated action and offers more than a handful of smiles, but there are other movies aimed at kids in theaters right now that do all of those things with more flair, gusto and heart. Sure, they have their own shortcomings, but when leaving the theater, fans can say I liked this movie because of ________. Sadly, I can’t think of any reasons why anyone would like Turbo, just a whole lot of explanations of why it’s halfway decent or kinda enjoyable at parts.
I don’t even need to see the rest of 2013’s schedule to know Turbo will end the year in the middle of the pack. 2.5 stars has never felt so right.