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IN SHORT: Terrific fun. [Rated PG for some mild action and thematic elements. 96 minutes]
Cranky thinks it's fair to state that somewhere around age five we were all presented with a book called "The Little Train That Could." The central idea of the story told in that book was one of believing in your self. "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." Cranky is sure you know that story. Turbo is not all that different from "The Little Train That Could," except that the train is now a snail and the mountain he has to climb is participation in the Indianapolis 500 car race. How a snail becomes fast enough to race at Indy is not unlike a different story, in which a nerdy guy gets bitten by a radioactive spider and . . . well . . . if you don't know you're reading the wrong website. How Theo the snail becomes the super-charged Turbo is of concern to us, since Turbo the film is a delight that parents are going to want to bring their kidlets to.
A snail called Theo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), discontent with his day job of chowing down on fallen tomatoes -- trust us, you've just got to see it -- spends his off hours watching cars go by. His older brother Chet (Paul Giamatti) is a nose to the grindstone snail, more concerned with work, and with keeping his brother's head out of the clouds. Theo is determined to be the fasted snail in the world . . . ; currently he can do a three foot dash in a blistering seventeen minutes <vbg> but he practices and practices and dreams while watching the cars speed by. Then, one day, Theo gets sucked into the hopped up engines of one of those cars usually seen in the Fast and Furious movies. Kind of like the radioactive spider thing, Theo is infused with the engine's nitrous oxide booster and becomes something super. He becomes a literal blue streak on the big screen. A turbo-charged snail (and thus the film's title).
Being the fastest snail in the world doesn't help a whit if (you) are picked off the ground and turned into the spokes-model for a taco stand near the 101 Freeway, up near Van Nuys. That would be the Dos Bros Taco Truck and fast food stand, run by two brothers not that different from Theo and Chet. Tito (Michael Peña) is the big dreamer who captures Theo and Chet for after hours snail races with his compadres at the Starlight Plaza mall -- the elderly Kim Ly (Ken Jeong) runs a nail salon; Paz (Michelle Rodriguez) is a femme auto mechanic who looks darn good in a T-shirt and Bobby (Richard Jenkins) is an older man who loves gadgets and model trains. A regular at the Hobby.Con convention, Bobby will design Theo's racing shell -- and from here on out, let us just report that dreams can come true.
Of course, TIto's brother Angelo (Luis Guzman) could care less. His mind is focused on business and Angelo's plans just seem to be an excuse not to work.
Long story short, everyone winds up at the Indy 500 where Theo gets a new nickname -- Turbo -- and the impossible happens. "Turbo's" idol, Indycar racer Guy Grangé (Bill Hader), who has three or four Indy trophies to his credit, gives the little guy's dream a big thumbs up. The night before the big race, Theo sneaks in to Grangé 's garage and basks in his snailish reflection in one of the trophies. Guy happens to catch the moment and tells Theo, "Eet looks good, non? So you go get one of your own!"
This is where parental units will think, "the kids will like this but I'll never buy into the plot," and those units will be absolutely wrong. The big question, of course, is... what would happen if the miraculous supercharging power that makes "Turbo" into the Super-Snail that he is, ever failed? The question is asked early on. It is answered in a way that, we are not embarrassed to admit it, had us cackling with glee.
We've said enough.
Those looking for the usual Dollar Rating won't find it here.We don't put that kind of rating on family films. It's no cop out . . . If all of our kidlets and our relatives' kidlets were still of elementary school age, all their thumbs would be up in the air 'cuz they would all have been bouncing in their seats. Happiest campers in the movie theater. If we weren't so old and fat, we'd have been bouncing, too!
Our only gripe is the use of nitrous oxide, spelled out in big letters, as part of the origin story. Nitrous is usually used in a dentist's office. Some people use it for illegal things. Why the film doesn't come up with some kind of clever alternative name so that little kids don't get the wrong idea is one of its few missteps.
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