TURBO – Blu-ray review

In a familiar premise, Turbo (Ryan Reynolds) wants more out of life than what his biological limitations or station in life will allow. His is the same spirit that made man want to fly—only this fellow would probably settle for a good crisp walking pace.

Turbo is a snail who happens to be a huge racing fan, especially of the Indy 500 and perennial winner Guy Gagné (Bill Hader). The arrogant Gagné mugs for cameras and says all the right things to stay in the spotlight, including the kind of inspirational dream-big quotes that fill Turbo’s head with fantastic ideas that he can somehow become faster than he is.

That kind of thinking can you killed, and it takes his brother (Paul Giamatti) to save him from the blades of a lawn mower when a test “sprint” puts him in danger.

So how do you have a story about a snail who dreams of speed turn into something other than a downer? Of course you have a “Spider-Man” type of transformation, where nitrous oxide (yep, laughing gas) somehow boosts Turbo’s power the way, in liquid form, it sometimes increases the power of racing engines.

What an increase! Turbo now can move at such a pace that all you see is a blue streak. But what a far-fetched journey he takes to realize his dream! Of course this snail will be discovered at a snail race run by a half-partner in a taco business, and sure he’ll somehow communicate to this guy that he wants to race in the Indy 500, so why wouldn’t this kindly Mexican try to officially enter him in the race? And why wouldn’t the world watch this freakish phenomenon with grand interest?

“Turbo” is turbo-charged with energy, colorful details, and enthusiasm. It’s the kind of film that will grab young viewers, and the racing scenes are every bit as spectacular as what we saw in “Cars.”

Yet, “Turbo” is a prisoner of its preposterous premise, because it takes so much creative energy just to make the main narrative remotely plausible that there’s clearly little left in the tank to come up with inventive side plots, sight gags, witty dialogue, and the kind of allusions that hold adults’ attention. A running gag about crows carrying off a snail one at a time is funny, but we could have used more of that sort of thing. There are some allusions and playful embracing of cultural stereotypes, but nothing near the cleverness of Disney’s “Rattatouille”—about a rat whose passion was gourmet food, not garbage, and who dreamed of being a chef.

Still, speaking of Disney, I’ll be posting another “dreamer” review later today or tomorrow, and given the choice between “Planes” and this entry from Dreamworks Animation, I’d take “Turbo” any day of the week. It’s not charmless by any means, and the characters and voice talents work to help us get past the familiar-yet-far-fetched premise. Michael Peña and Luis Guzman could be funnier as the proprietors of Dos Bros Tacos, but they do the best with the lines they’re given.

Parents may wonder whether it’s the right message to send youngsters:  that no dream is too big for the dreamer. What about the would-be pro baseball player who wasn’t born with natural athletic ability or coordination? Or the wannabe rock star who wasn’t gifted with musical ability and can’t seem to sing a note on key? Will kids understand that not all dreams are attainable? Let’s hope so, because otherwise “Turbo” will make for a turbulent future for some unfortunate believers.

“Turbo” comes to Blu-ray (50GB disc) via an AVC/MPEG-4 encode that appears flawless. It’s a feast for the eyes, with a cartoon world that borders on the super-realistic at times. Colors are vivid, edges are nicely delineated to create a decent sense of depth (even in the standard Blu-ray) and I saw no evidence of compression issues. “Turbo” is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

The English DTS-HD MA 7.1 featured soundtrack is also top-notch, prioritizing dialogue so that lines aren’t washed out neither by special effects and background noise nor by a scattergun soundtrack that includes such diverse songs as “Let the Bass Go” (Snoop Dogg), “Here We Come” (Ali Dee), “We Are the Champions” (Queen), “Jump Around” (House of Pain), “Eye of the Tiger” (Survivor), and “What’s New Pussycat?” (Tom Jones). Race scenes project a perfect sense of audial directionality, and this soundtrack could only be better if there were just a little more rumble to the bass.

All of the bonus features are under 10 minutes each—some WAY under. The biggest bonus feature is a series of learn-to-draw segments presented under the umbrella of “Be an Artist!” Here Dave Burgess will show you how to draw Turbo in his garden snail shell, Turbo in his racing shell, and how to draw other snail characters like Smoove Move, Skidmark, Whiplash, White Shadow, and Chet. In the longest segment viewers are shown how to customize their own racer. All totaled “Be an Artist!” runs around 49 minutes.

Other than that, there’s just an in-character sportscaster interview with Turbo (5 min.), a series of music videos (“Smoove Move’s Music Maker,” 13 min.), a look at Team Turbo’s “tricked out” shell attachments (3 min.), one deleted scene (2 min.), a storyboard sequence (2 min.), and an interactive program where you can design a racing shell for one of the characters. Other than that there’s just a “Turbo” trailer and additional trailers and title-related music videos.

This combo pack also includes a DVD and UV Digital HD copy.

Bottom line:
“Turbo” isn’t as original, complex, or humor-infused as a film like “Ratatouille,” but it’s still a solid movie for family viewing.