I was totally caught off guard by the new DreamWorks animated feature about a snail with a seemingly impossible dream, Turbo. The premise is absurd and I had low expectations based on the trailer. I was happily proved wrong.
Turbo was just so darn cute that I was smiling throughout the film and gushing about it to everyone afterwards.
The movie starts with an introduction to the main character, Theo, who has snuck into a house to watch a recording of his favorite race car driver, Guy Gagne, winning the Indy 500. Theo dreams of racing and spends his free time practicing his skills. There is one thing holding him back, Theo is a garden snail.
Theo spends his days working alongside other snails, including his protective brother, Chet, at his nine-to-five job harvesting tomatoes. The snails live tedious lives, which occasionally is infused with danger in the form of tomato accidents, snail eating birds and a sadistic toddler riding a critter crunching three-wheeler. Theo floats through life in his dream world and is in a constant state of mockery from his fellow snails.
One day, through a freak accident, Theo develops super speed. A series of events leads Theo and his brother on an adventure, taking them away from their garden home and to a new group of friends who form a mutually beneficial partnership that involves entering Theo, now nicknamed Turbo, in the Indy 500.
Turbo is foremost a character driven movie. The plot is decent, but it moves forward due to the characters motives and their reactions to their circumstances. This extends beyond the Theo. All of the characters in the movie have their own drives, nothing and nobody is ancillary.
My favorite aspect of the movie is the mirroring between the snail and the human characters. This is a story of two sets of brothers, snails Theo/Chet and humans Tito/Angelo, brothers who own a taco stand in Van Nuys. Tito is the dreamer and Angelo is the older brother, who is trying to tether him in the real world. By paralleling the stories of the snails and humans, the writers drove home some of the key themes and made them relatable.
The obvious theme in the movie is one of following your dreams. However, paired with this is a related theme aimed squarely at the adults in the audience. The characters in the movie, both snail and human are adults with aspirations beyond their current careers. This is a movie about not staying stuck in a rut and that even as an adult, it's okay to take risks. I think the themes in this movie are meant to resonate more strongly with adults, especially those who feel held back from pursuing a passion or making a major life change. I like that this seemingly children's movie about a little snail dug deeper.
Beyond having a great story, funny script and strong characters, the movie physically looked great. We didn't see it in 3-D, but it really wasn't necessary. The overall style of the movie looked fantastic. I loved the way the snails were so expressive with their eyes and movement of their antennas. There were several very cool visual moments, like when Theo was looking down on cars speeding past on a freeway or slow motion moments on the Indy 500 track.
Turbo has creativity in spades.
The animation gold standard for me is Pixar. I've loved nearly all of their films and Turbo was on par with the best Pixar films.
A fun movie tie in is the Dos Bros Taco Truck that Dan found parked near his office.