Joseph "Jay Dub" Wade's talking-animal-related torment continues this week as he endures the baffling Turbo, in which a snail somehow becomes a racing driver without a car. Next is Sean "Keanu Grieves" Hanson's take on The Conjuring, the latest from horror auteur James Wan. Also: Martin R. "Vargo" Schneider gives Red 2 a try; Keanu Grieves wonders why Only God Forgives; and Ian "Professor Clumsy" Maddison finishes us off with the serial-killer thriller The Frozen Ground.
EXPECTATIONS: Is it wrong of me to hope that Turbo turns out to be shockingly racist or otherwise offensive? Now, granted, I don't expect Turbo to be provocative in any way, shape or form, but if it were, at least I'd have something substantial to work with. What the hell I am supposed to write about this thing? I suppose I could just review it in two backhanded paragraphs the way everyone else has at this point. "Turbo sure is a cartoon about a snail going fast! I give it 3 Tomatometer Points out of 5!" Yawn...
Why does he have a rear spoiler? What good does rear downforce do him? He's a snail.
REALITY: Attention, adults: Unless you're really jazzed for a cartoon about a snail that races in the Indy 500, there is nothing here that will keep you entertained (or awake for that matter). However, if you have kids in tow who are super-pumped for some sweet snail-on-car action, that's exactly what they'll get, and you can rest assured that Turbo isn't going to poison their minds with casual racism or hidden political agendas. I hate to call that a victory of any sort, but that's just the world we live in now.
Like some joke character from an episode of Clone High, Turbo (Ryan Reynolds) is a snail with one passion in life: racing. After tumbling off a bridge and into the engine of a car right out of a Fast & Furious movie, Turbo emerges from Paul Walker's tailpipe with automotive superpowers, and he and his stick-in-the-mud brother Chet (Paul Giamatti) are whisked off to a dying strip mall in the middle of Los Angeles. There, the two are caught by taco chef Tito (Michael Peña), who decides to use Turbo as a way to promote his taco stand. Turbo aims a little higher and convinces Tito to enter them in the Indianapolis 500. When they arrive, Turbo meets his idol, IndyCar champion Guy Gagné (Bill Hader), who refuses to be shown up by a snail that can go fast.
Does he go here every night? It must take him all day to get up there.I'm leaving out an awful lot of secondary characters, but it occurred to me in writing the previous paragraph just how cluttered this film is with characters who contribute absolutely nothing. We have the team of racing snails (led by Samuel L. Jackson) who help Turbo follow his dream, as well as Tito's hangers-on at the strip mall, who fund his trip to the Brickyard. Once these characters have fulfilled their narrative purpose, they just wind up standing in the background taking up space and collecting easy paychecks. Seriously, somebody tell me there was a compelling reason for Ken Jeong to play a sassy Asian grandma with more than ten seconds of screen time.*
Anyway, we're getting off-track here. Turbo's recipe comes down to a healthy portion of Rookie of the Year with five or six dashes of Ratatouille for flavor, all boiled down to a base that only barely resembles either film. The moral that "no dream is too big, and no dreamer too small" is a fine one, certainly, but the film leans on that moral like a crutch. Turbo only succeeds in his dream to go fast because he chances into the superpower that lets him do it. The film seems to forget that following your dreams often means using what you've learned along the way.
When we first meet Turbo, he's practicing his running, chugging energy drinks and staying up late to watch IndyCar racing on TV. Presumably, he's been doing this for awhile, long enough that it's reasonable to assume he's actually learned the ins and outs of racing. Yet when he makes it to Indianapolis, Turbo is utterly overwhelmed, and he only succeeds against seasoned Indy racers when he's told to "race like a snail." His knowledge of racing? Gone. His familiarity with the track he's no doubt seen on TV a million times? Nope. The sudden discovery that he can pass cars by going underneath them? Screenwriting gold!
Why does he care about winning races anyway? He's a snail.At the risk of sounding like one of those people babbling on about realism in cartoons, they don't let just anybody sign up for the Indy 500. While Turbo and his crew take care of the fees and qualifying runs through sheer novelty (and speed, let's be fair), there is never an inkling that Turbo actually knows what he's doing. He's racing, sure, but applying what he knows (or what he should know, from what we've seen) as an obsessive IndyCar nut never seems to enter into the equation.
This makes Turbo less of a proactive, intelligent hero and more like the plot device of his own movie. He goes however fast the film needs him to go to win the race and save the taco stand. The final lap of the race turns into an utter farce, but by this point in the film we've already seen snails lasso crows like squawking fell beasts from Mordor, so a snail crossing the finish line at regular speed is pretty low on Turbo's list of ridiculous bullshit.
For all its fantasy elements, the film sticks to the "go fast, turn left" basics with its depiction of racing as a sport. But then, maybe that's all it really needs to do. Kids will probably go nuts for Turbo, because little orange blobs that go fast are cool. Machines that go fast and make tons of noise doing it? Even cooler. Following your dreams without doing any of the work involved? That's the coolest thing there is.
|Snails Riding Crows||Sure, That's Worth a Point|
|Moral of the Story||Training is Optional|
*Why is this character voiced by Ken Jeong? Aren't there actual Asian women who could play this part? Or any women at all, for that matter?
MINORITY REPORT: The thing that baffles me most about this is how Turbo the snail enters into motorsports without a car. They'd be more likely to change the rule preventing non-humans from racing than they would change the rule about entrants not having a car. It's the whole point. It's motorsports. You need a motor. I know it's just a cartoon, but come on!
At least make it so he's a snail who can drive really well, not just run fast. Or if you're going to have him run fast, there are track-and-field events he could compete in where he wouldn't need a rollcage. [We'll spare you the rest of Ian's rant, which lasted nearly four days] - Ian "Professor Clumsy" Maddison
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