Want to know if a kids’ movie is worth its salt? Take a few children to see it and watch their behavior. If they’re engaged for 90 minutes, laugh at the jokes, gasp at the moments of terror, and come out the door chattering away about this character and that event, the movie is a success. If they squirm and fuss and find themselves in search of other entertainment in the first 35 minutes, the movie is a dud.
Turbo, starring the voice talents of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Samuel L. Jackson, and Snoop Dogg, leaves the kids squirming.
Theo, a.k.a. Turbo, is a race car–obsessed garden snail who falls off an overpass in Van Nuys, Calif., into a nitro-powered engine and gains “super-snail” speed. While rescuing his overprotective brother, Chet (Giamatti), from a gang of carnivorous crows, Turbo gets discovered by a quirky taco salesman named Tito (Peña). Tito believes he can use Turbo’s special powers to bring business to the failing Starlight Plaza. That idea evolves and Tito ends up entering Turbo in the Indianapolis 500.
The bright colors and sharp animation are Turbo’s best features. What kids want is the same thing everyone ultimately wants in a movie: a good story. Despite a cute premise, Turbo (PG for mild action) is a tired rehashing of the loser with the impossible dream plot.
The results are exactly what you’d anticipate, but the joy of victory is dampened by the movie’s reliance on stereotypes and hackneyed humor, much of which targets an adult audience, not the kids it’s supposed to be entertaining. Thanks to the movie’s slow, slithery pace, kids ages 2-7 will have a hard time finding it entertaining at all, though older children will probably enjoy the final sequence at the Indy 500, which is undoubtedly the best part of the film.