HTS Overall Score:91
Pixar is the gold standard of CG animated movie studios. After all, they gave birth to the CG revolution and have delivered an absolutely outstanding catalog of movies. DreamWorks Animation, on the other hand, can’t claim the same lifetime record of success. They first hit the scene in 1998 and put forth several freshman efforts, such as Antz and Road to El Dorado, that received justifiably lukewarm receptions. Then came along Shrek, DreamWork’s 2001 game changer, and the studio hit pay dirt. They have since released a string of exceedingly popular films including Madagascar (2005), Kung Fu Panda (2008), Monsters vs Aliens (2009), How to Train Your Dragon (2010), Megamind (2010), and The Croods (2013). What makes these films, and other CG animated films, so popular is a wide reaching appeal as family entertainment. Their graphics dazzle, unlocking the imagination with rich fantasy worlds that smash the limits of reality. Storyline material is typically original, and most (if not all) give audiences a range of humor that can tickle the fancy of young and old alike (which is perfect for adults nearly drowned by child-humor from typical children’s entertainment).
That brings us to Turbo, DreamWorks’ recent energetic release featuring a stubborn snail named Theo (voice: Ryan Reynolds) daring to dream the impossible dream. It’s a new spin on the “Little Engine that Could,” where the underdog tries to beat all odds.
Theo is a dreamer. He spends his days going to work in a tomato patch (amusingly called “The Plant") of a suburban L.A. home and his nights alone on a garage work bench watching his inspirational hero, Guy Gagné (Bill Hader), race Formula One cars on television. Theo desperately wants to be different. He wants to be a racer; blindingly fast and reaching for greatness. His reality, though, is that of a mind-numbingly slow snail mocked as detached and silly by friends and family.
One night Theo leaves his home and stumbles upon two souped-up street racing cars preparing to battle. In his excitement, Theo falls onto the hood of one of the cars and gets pulled into the engine, rattled around, supercharged with an injection of nitrous oxide, and blown from the tail pipe. The nitrous changes his very molecular being and, voila, Theo becomes “Turbo” the rocket-fast snail.
The next day Theo and his brother Chet (Paul Giamatti) are captured by a closet snail racing Taco Truck owner named Tito (Michael Peña) who quickly realizes Theo is something special. After failing to convince his brother and business partner that Theo can be used to attract new customers, Tito hauls Theo from California to Indianapolis to enter the Indy 500. Of course the notion of a snail racing in the Indy 500 is silly, but this is where the magic of animated movies comes to play. A snail racing Forumla One becomes the possible! Theo and his hero Guy (who isn’t nearly as nice in person) come face to face in a thunderous race and the little snail attempts to pry his way into the hearts of millions.
Of course there is much more to the movie. Turbo features an entire cast of cute and cuddly snails, some with voices (Samuel L. Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph) that are sure to sound familiar. There’s also a gaggle of amusing and extroverted shop owners that team-up with Tito to get Theo to Indy. The animations and anthropomorphic movements performed by the snails are charming and enjoyable to watch. And then there is the action...loads of action...that keeps the film moving forward at light speed.
Despite the curiosity of introducing a snail as a racer, the movie suffers from an absence of absolute originality. There are simply too many elements borrowed from other movies. First there is the bug torturing child character (Bike Boy). Think “Sid” from Toy Story. Then there is an area of shops that needs an injection of customers to be saved from financial doom. Think “Radiator Springs” from Cars. And of course Theo’s gaggle of escargot racing friends have similar parallels to Nemo’s fish tank friends in Finding Nemo. If you watch Turbo, you’ll undoubtedly find other glaring parallels that slightly tarnish its zesty luster.
Despite those issues, the film’s screenplay is fairly solid and remains entertaining from start to finish. It definitely conveys a sporting sense of competitiveness where the underdog is unwilling to tap-out. It’s not surprising to learn that one of the three writers in the mix was Robert Siegel (The Wrestler). Children will absolutely love Turbo. It’s almost certain to be a guaranteed hit in their eyes. The characters are totally endearing and the on-the-screen action is simply superb. If nothing else, Turbo should prove to be a fun evening of family entertainment in most any home. Collectors will likely want a copy of Turbo on hand because of its plethora of demo-worthy moments.
PG for mild action and thematic elements.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/turbo4.png[/img]Turbo is a dreamland of amazing colors displayed in absolutely stunning fashion and DreamWorks’ MPEG-4 AVC transfer leaves nothing to be desired. It is truly picture perfect. Every color – oranges, reds, purples, even glowing turquoise – dance on the screen creating a delectable feast for the eyes. The most exacting of details including the minutia of surface textures (the prickly stems on a tomato plant, the fine ridges on Theo’s shell, and the scaly nature of Gagné’s racing uniform) are simply amazing and are on full razor-sharp display. The presentation is completely devoid of blocking, compression, or jagged lines and jitter. Shadow detail is astonishing and background lighting is perfectly executed.
Watching Turbo is akin to staring through a window into a beautiful animated world and the added cinemascope width is a major benefit for projector-based systems. It’s as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen on my screen. Breathtaking.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news//turbo5.jpg[/img]Not to be out done by a smashing video presentation, DreamWorks pulls a “Triple Lindy” and drops the hammer with a phenomenal HD-DTS MA 7.1 soundtrack. The film starts with a roar as Formula One race cars whizz through the soundstage and roar to the rear channels...and it never let’s up. Loaded with pinpoint directionality and loads of rear channel activity, Turbo is a veritable sonic explosion. A deep, rich, warmth is the hallmark of Turbo’s presentation. Dialog is thick and inviting and beautifully elevates to mid-screen; it moves to right and left channels, following camera pans. The front sound stage explodes with dynamic sounds associated with on-the-screen action and has amazing width and depth due to award winning composer Henry Jackman’s (Wreck-It Ralph, G.I. Joe Retaliation, Monsters vs Aliens) pulsating original score. This all goes without mentioning loads of LFE associated with roaring engines and sweeping sound effects. Never thin or harsh, Turbo’s audio presentation boldly challenges it’s visual presentation for supremacy leading to a photo finish. Wow. It’s A-plus material and will surely be the source of many demo-moments in home theaters for a good long while.
• Champion's Corner
• Smoove Move's Music Maker
• Team Turbo: Tricked Out
• Meet Tito: Deleted Scene
• The Race: Storyboard Sequence
• Be An Artist
• Shell Creator
• Turbo Theatrical Trailer
• Sneak Peek
• World of DreamWorks Animation
Turbo is a slick and fast moving entertainment fest. It falters a bit because quite a few story elements feel like reruns of other popular animated movies. But don’t let that stop you from giving this film a spin. It’s a fun and lighthearted affair that seemingly flies by with nonstop action and quite a bit of amusing humor. Turbo’s audio and visual presentations are just about as perfect as perfect can be. The 2.35:1 HD presentation is a rich feast for the eyes while the 7.1 DTS-HD MA track is an enveloping explosion of sonic bliss. This film is a recommended watch for family entertainment – kids will undoubtedly enjoy it. Audio and videophiles will absolutely drool over Turbo’s visual and auditory offerings...and they will probably derive entertainment from its storyline, too.
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph
Directed by: David Soren
Written by: Darren Lemke, Robert D. Siegel, David Soren
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, Russian DTS 5.1, Estonian Dolby Digital 5.1, Thai Dolby Digital 5.1, Arabic Dolby Digital 5.1, Latvian Dolby Digital 5.1, Lithuanian Dolby Digital 5.1, and Ukrainian Dolby Digital 5.1.
Runtime: 96 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: November 12, 2013
Buy Turbo on Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It