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'Turbo' review: Ryan Reynolds plays a snail with a big dream

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Released on Friday, Oct 18 2013

Director: David Soren; Screenwriter Darren Lemke, Robert D Siegel, David Soren; Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Samuel L Jackson, Michael Peña, Bill Hader, Snoop Dogg; Running time: 96 mins; Certificate: PG


While this colourful racing-based animation has failed to get Stateside audiences revved up (zing) in the way that Ron Howard's Rush recently managed, it's a zippy and good-natured adventure that hones in on its target audience from the get-go. With its cunningly choreographed slapstick and broadly drawn characters, Turbo is aimed firmly at the kids and makes few concessions to older viewers, with the exception of some unexpectedly smart dialogue.

Drawing from the same unlikely underdog well as Ratatouille's rat who wants to be a gourmet chef, Turbo stars Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Theo, a distinctly unremarkable everysnail who dreams of being a great racer. Despite his cynical older brother Chet's (Paul Giamatti) best efforts to give him a reality check, his obsession with the dream makes him a pariah among his fellow garden snails, and jeopardises his humdrum day job harvesting tomatoes.

'Turbo' poster
One freak accident with a canister of nitrous oxide later, Theo has become Turbo, a super-charged snail who's suddenly in with a real shot at winning the coveted Indy 500 race. He and Chet are captured by endearing taco stand owner Tito (Michael Peña), who's harbouring some unrealistic career dreams of his own, and introduced to a gang of other racing snails led by Samuel L Jackson's badass Whiplash.

"Your trash talk is needlessly complicated!" Whiplash complains during a face-off with Turbo, who has an entertaining habit of correcting the group's grammar and sentence construction. There are enough genuinely funny moments along these lines - many of them courtesy of Bill Hader's scenery-chewing turn as a preening French-Canadian racing champion who goes from being Turbo's idol to his rival.

Things get less interesting once the racing takes centre-stage, and it becomes clear just how little the shoehorned-in 3D is adding. But director David Soren drops in enough inventive visual touches - including an early shot of Turbo positioning himself perfectly in front of a television screen to mimic being interviewed - to sustain interest, even as the plot becomes cluttered with a few too many quirky supporting characters, including Snoop Dogg's aptly-named Smoove Move.

Reynolds's particular brand of bland charm extends to his vocal performance, but he's skilfully offset by Giamatti and Jackson's more distinctive turns. Turbo isn't reinventing any wheels, but the snail world is fleshed out with enough detail to make its essentially derivative premise feel fresh. As half term crowd-pleasers go, this doesn't put a foot wrong.

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