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Dreamworks // PG // November 12, 2013
List Price: $38.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted November 16, 2013 | E-mail the Author
Theo has racing in his blood...or, wait, whatever it is that garden snails have inside. He has racing in his something. Every waking hour and then some is spent daydreaming about blazing across the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at a couple hundred miles an hour, just like his idol, racing sensation Guy Gagné. Look, though, this isn't some far-flung fantasy universe where bears and mosquitos and yorkiepoos
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are behind the wheels of a car; this is real life. Snails can't race. Heck, Theo can't even make it two feet into the yard to grab that fallen tomato everyone's been lusting over all season. After Theo slinks away in embarrassment, the darndest thing happens! He gets bitten by a radioactive sedan and gains the proportionate speed and strength of a car. Okay, not really; that'd be ridiculous. No, Theo accidentally guzzles way too much nos when he's caught in the middle of an underground street race. All of a sudden, his eyes glow like high beams. If you bump into him the wrong way, you'll be subjected to a bunch of bleeps and bloops that this shell is protected by Viper. ...and, yeah, Theo all of a sudden can scream along at north of 200 mph. It's a miracle! It's also a recipe for disaster when a showboating Theo accidentally trashes the tomato vine that's the foundation of his snail commune thingie. He and his mortified brother Chet are exiled, cast outta the suburbs and into the not-so-mean streets of Van Nuys.

Tito gets it. He's a dreamer too. When he plops Theo into a snail race he and the other bored owners of stores in this out-of-the-way strip mall put on every so often -- when he sees what Theo can do -- Tito all of a sudden starts dreaming big. The world's fastest snail is just what Dos Bros Tacos could use to drum up some desperately needed business! Geez, and just think how much publicity they'll score if they can enter TheoTurbo in the Indy 500! There's nothing in the rules that says a snail can't race. He checked and everything! Angelo frowns at his brother's latest get-rich-quick scheme and goes back to slinging some more Combo #3-s. Tito doesn't have Angelo's support, but the rest of the shop owners in their little strip mall are all in. Piling into a taco truck with Turbo and the rest of their motley crew of racing snails, they're gonna take Indianapolis by storm.

If you want to strip Turbo down to bare metal, sure, the skeleton of a plot looks awfully familiar. With untold millions looking on, an underdog dreamer reaches for the stars. You can apply that same handful of words to something like two-thirds of the animated movies coming down the pike anymore. I just look at Turbo as amounting to more than that. With too many of those other movies, the message is hardly ever anything more than "believe in yourself!" Turbo goes a different direction. It's about determination...perseverance...being willing to put yourself out there and maybe suffering a bunch of public failures...about the necessity of having friends and family in your corner. Between the other snails and the shop owners, there's a pretty huge ensemble behind Turbo. Whenever Turbo clears
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a hurdle, it doesn't feel like a victory just for him but for everyone supporting their little amigo. Sure, sure, a bunch of movies -- animated and otherwise -- try to do that with their underdog sports stories, but it rarely rings as true as it does here. I also love the way that Turbo defines "dreams" and "winning". The other snails that Turbo pals around with for most of the flick creep along at glacial speeds, but they still have racing in their hearts, and they don't let their sluggish (no pun intended) pace get in the way. The movie recognizes that just because Angelo and the other shop owners have more modest ambitions doesn't make their dreams any less worthy than Turbo's, and that's neat to see. Who ever knew a bite from a taco could be so heartwarming? It's also worth noting that Turbo's passion for racing is something that's deeply felt, not hammered into us by an overbearing screenplay or whatever.

Sorry, I'm not done gushing about Turbo quite yet. The movie's a complete knockout visually, and I mean that in a technical -- ambitious lighting, smoke, and particle effects -- and artistic sense. I've seen more than my share of racing flicks, and Turbo captures a more kinetic sensation of speed than the vast majority of them. Turbo's tiny size compared to the world around him brings a different perspective than I'm used to seeing in these sorts of movies, and it really ratchets up the threat of danger. Turbo is a genuinely thrilling movie to watch, and it sure doesn't hurt that there's some sort of race or action-ish sequence every few minutes. I don't know how big the checks were that DreamWorks wrote for visual consultant Wally Pfister (Inception; the Dark Knight trilogy) and race choreographer Dario Franchitti, but it's money well-spent. Even with a pretty sprawling cast, all the characters still have at least something about them that stands out, and a few of 'em really do resonate. Some of the racial stereotypes can be...uncomfortable, and if I have one gripe with Turbo, that's definitely where my finger would be pointing. Turbo sometimes does fall into the trap where those sorts of cariactures take the place of characterization, especially Ken Jeong screeching as a seventysomething year old Asian woman who runs a nail salon (!).

I'm not saying that Turbo is some sort of an instant classic, and I'm definitely not saying it's mature and profound. Turbo could've gotten away with playing it safe as mindless, formulaic product, and it aims a little higher. It's world-class eye candy, it's frenetic, it's funny, and its emotions run a little deeper than I'd have expected. The racial cariactures do make me feel somewhat guilty giving the movie such an enthusiastic rating, but I can't help but say Highly Recommended anyway.

So, yeah, Turbo's more than a little gorgeous. It's bright and cheery! It's colorful! It's razor-sharp! It's overflowing with fine detail! Big-budget computer animated flicks are just about always perfection on Blu-ray, and Turbo marches right alongside the best of 'em. A movie this visually gonzo would be a thrill on any format, but Turbo is teeming with some really ambitious lighting and particle effects that demand to be
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experienced in high-def. The authoring of the disc is perfect too, free of any sputters or stutters in the AVC encode, out-of-place aliasing, or anything like that. Five stars all the way.

Turbo blazes its way onto a dual-layer Blu-ray disc, and this presentation preserves the movie's theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The release reviewed here is a two-disc set -- one Blu-ray disc, one DVD -- but a three-disc collection that piles on a Blu-ray 3D version of the flick is floating around out there too.

Nothin' but nice things to say about Turbo's 24-bit, 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack either! Clarity and fidelity are nothing short of startling. Even though I only have a six-channel setup, I'm still in awe of how effectively Turbo uses every speaker at its fingertips. The mission statement of Turbo's sound design is to define a very clear sense of place, and there are more discrete effects and silky smooth pans than I could ever hope to count. The 230 mph rush of all these racers blazing by, a murder of crows swooping in for yet another late afternoon snack, Theo's TV tumbling off the table, tire marbles on the track bursting every which way...ooooh, I love it, love it, love it. The lower frequencies thunder as well, but even with as frantic as things can get, dialogue never once struggles for placement in the mix. Wholly, completely, thoroughly impressive.

There are somewhere in the neighborhood of eight hojillion other soundtracks. You're lookin' at Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs (448kbps) in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Estonian, Hindi, Urdu, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Ukranian, along with a DD 5.1 descriptive video service track and a half-bitrate DTS 7.1 dub in Russian. Whew! There are subtitle streams in each and every one of those languages too, including English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing.

On the thin side.
  • Champion's Corner (5 min.; mostly HD): First up is a Speed Channel-style recap of the Indy 500 race with Turbo and Guy Gagné, complete with one of Gagné's Adrenalode ads as well as some standard-def footage of a flesh-and-blood Dario Franchitti behind the wheel that greatly shaped the movie's climax.

  • Smoove Move's Music Maker (13 min.; HD): I thought this was going to be some sort of interactive thingie, but it's just a reel of six music videos. Just about all of 'em are wall-to-wall footage from Turbo, but there's some live-action stuff with Snoop Dogg/Lion/whatever tossed in the middle there.

  • Team Turbo: Tricked Out (3 min.; HD): Just a quick introduction to each of Theo's racing snail buddies and the hardware they're packin'.

  • Deleted Scene (2 min.; HD): Turbo's one and only deleted scene is a really funny alternate introduction for Tito. I get why it was cut out -- I mean, this extra opens with
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    director David Soren explaining why and everything! -- but I'm glad I had a chance to watch that original intro here, if only in animatic form.

  • Storyboard-to-Screen Comparison (2 min.; HD): The underground racing sequence where Theo first gets turbo charged scores a storyboard-to-screen comparison. Director David Soren says in his intro that this was the first sequence that was storyboarded, and the final product didn't change much at all from those original boards.

  • Be An Artist! (61 min.; HD): More than twice the length of the rest of Turbo's extras combined, "Be an Artist!" has head of character animation David Burgess teaching viewers how to draw eight of the movie's snails, along with tips on how to make 'em your own.

  • Shell Creator (HD): Kids -- and, well, adults too, I guess! -- can trick out their own racing snails, choosing colors, graphics, spoilers, engines, pipes, accessories, and backdrops. There's a way to save your snails, but you can't email them to friends or family or anything neat like that.

  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): ...and coming up from the rear is a two and a half minute theatrical trailer.

Turbo comes packaged in a glossy slipcover, and an anamorphic widescreen DVD and UltraViolet digital copy code are riding shotgun.

The Final Word
If you're feeling cynical, you can dismiss Turbo as half of Pixar's output shoved in a blender and mashing the 'Purée" button over and over and over. It's Cars meets A Bug's Life meets Ratatouille with Sid from Toy Story sprinkled in there for good measure. If you're dead-set on disliking a movie, you'll always find a reason.

Me, though...? I loved the heck out of Turbo. It's never just disinterestedly thumbing its way through the tried-'n-true Underdog Sports Cartoon Playbook. Its laughs and more emotional moments are earned, it's more visually exciting than just about any movie -- live-action or animated -- that I've come across this year, and Turbo is just ridiculously, infectiously fun. Highly Recommended.
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Highly Recommended

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