Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
July 16, 2013
*1/2 (out of four)
I feel the need. The need for better kids' movies.
It’s fine that a snail named Theo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) loves racing, and “terrifying, terrifying, blazing speed” is the only thing that makes him happy. Sure, an incredible, unintentional injection of nitrous oxide (I think) turns Theo’s body into a super-fast car and allows him to live his dream of going more than .00000021 miles per hour. Yet suggesting that kids can achieve their dreams through artificial supplements doesn’t seem like a great message—at least the forgettable “Despicable Me 2” was anti-steroids—even if it’s essentially bitten from “Rookie of the Year.”
And Theo dubbing himself Turbo and racing in the Indy 500? Humans who frequently engage in snail races and argue that technically racing’s biggest event has no specific rule forbidding snails to race? Wimbledon doesn’t expressly prohibit rhinos either, but something tells me the eligibility of a magic, tennis-playing rhino wouldn’t be a quick decision.
Plus, Turbo’s not a car. If he wanted to race against the world’s fastest runners, that might be OK. But you can’t put on a jetpack and say you want to race against cars. Superpowers aren’t a skill, and Superman doesn’t race against planes and call himself a champion. He’s got more important things to do.
Early in “Turbo,” a snail tells Theo, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” That defines this painfully familiar family flick, whose generic narrative of going out into the world and pursuing an unlikely goal is soured by Tito (Chicago native Michael Pena), the human kindred spirit of Theo who stereotypically drives a taco truck because, you see, he is Mexican.
The movie’s one funny idea about crows constantly snatching snails is repeated until it’s not clever anymore, and ultimately “Turbo” just resembles a mash-up of “Ratatouille,” “A Bug’s Life” and “Cars” anyway.
Lately Pixar doesn’t have much imagination left, but I assume they still have a legal department.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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