‘turbo’: the reviews are in!

DreamWorks Animation hopes to re-create the surprise success they had with the prehistoric family adventure “The Croods” by giving kids “Turbo,” the tale of a bored snail (Ryan Reynolds) who dreams of becoming a big-time racer. A mollusk-heavy supporting cast rallies around Turbo to make his dream come true, with Paul Giamatti, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph, Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Schwartz all playing snails. Michael Peña, Michelle Rodriguez, Luis Guzmán and Bill Hader round out the human cast.

While critics seem to be on the same page regarding the film’s outstanding visuals and score, the fact that Turbo only succeeds following a freak dosage of nitrous oxide — which gives him the power boost normally given to drag racers — has some worried about a message that might seem to support performance-enhancing drugs. But despite some iffy plot points, the film’s tried-and-true “if you can dream it, you can be it” theme should please parents. Even more pleasing is the ethnically diverse cast, which hopefully marks a trend towards an all-inclusive future for animation.

Read on for a sample of “Turbo” reviews.

Standout Visuals
“Although the dialogue becomes repetitive, the voice performances are all solid and distinctive. But better than that are some of the visuals, particularly in nocturnal scenes around the taco stand, which create both a heightened realistic evocation of shabby San Fernando Valley environs and an echo of classic noir visions of semi-desperate L.A. characters deciding to put all their chips on one roll of the dice. Kudos to the director and the animators on this score, but it should be noted that, just as Roger Deakins was engaged to advise on ‘Rango,’ ace cinematographer Wally Pfister worked as visual consultant here. Henry Jackman’s score is nothing if not propulsive.” — Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

Solid Ensemble
“Making playful use of 3D along the way, the CG toon zips past the obstacle of convincing the organizers to allow a snail to compete in the Indy 500, nimbly juggling the mismatched racers’ differences in scale on the track itself. While the obvious takeaway for kids is the stock no-goal-too-impossible malarkey, the film also raises the more practical lesson that one can’t achieve success alone, fleshing out the pic’s second act with characters Turbo needs to succeed (including fellow snails voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Rudolph and Snoop Dogg).” — Peter Debruge, Variety

Mixed Message
” ‘Turbo’ tries to embrace the underdog sports movie cliches but falls apart thanks to its nonsensical superhero setup. The title hero has no athletic skills, and only develops his supermolluskulan abilities by happenstance, not by self-improvement. ‘Turbo’ tries to turn its protagonist’s selfish abuse of his newfound abilities into a triumph of the human-slash-mollusk spirit, but the only way to apply the film’s life lessons in a real world context would be to engage in rampant steroid use… ‘Turbo’ goes out of its way to reward a dreamer even though he’s done nothing to deserve his success. It’s not unwatchable but it’s got such an unhealthy theme that I can’t quite imagine anyone really supporting it.” — William Bibbiani, Crave Online

Harmless Fun
“Revving into theaters a mere four months after DreamWorks Animation’s last film (the prehistoric box-office smash ‘The Croods’), ‘Turbo’ is a mildly enjoyable warm-weather diversion that’s neither as funny as it should be nor as emotionally rousing as it could be… The climactic race scenes have a zippy, whiplash velocity thanks to the film’s vertiginous 3-D. And while there’s no denying that the film is a harmless, wholesome, and heart-warming ride crafted with polish and skill, it’s also so predictable that you’ll see every twist in the story driving down Fifth Avenue.” — Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

Surprising Social Commentary
“If there’s a speed-related element that deserves kudos, it’s Chet’s position as a small-minded semi-villain, whose bigoted, conservative views are causing the world to pass him by. His character’s nature also anchors the film’s handling of race, which is about as equal-opportunity as possible for something that still surrenders to the hero-voiced-by-white-headliner formula. ‘What are you doing with these freaks?’ Chet [Paul Giamatti] asks, referencing human and non-human characters voiced by Peña, Luis Guzmán, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, Samuel L. Jackson, and Snoop Dogg… By ultimately making Chet the ‘other’ (and by generally boasting a surprising wealth of societal subtext), it’s a zip in the right direction.” — R.Kurt Osenlund, Slant Magazine