Entertaining Turbo zips through an eye-popping animated landscape

by Mark Burger

Evidently, there’s no rule stating that a snail can’t participate in the Indianapolis 500, which is a good thing, otherwise Turbo (***) wouldn’t have much of a story. As it stands, it doesn’t have much of one as is — although in the long (and short) run, such a concern really doesn’t matter.

The latest full-length escapade from DreamWorks Animation may not rank among the great animated features of all time, but in a summer already crowded with such fare it plays safe, fast and loose. On those terms, it works quite well.

Ryan Reynolds provides the voice for Theo, a garden snail who feels the need for speed — hence his nickname “Turbo” — which doesn’t hold him in good stead with his fellow, contently plodding snails. After being dosed with nitrous oxide, Theo’s metabolism is mutated (in a nice way, of course) and he now possesses remarkable speed. Suddenly, his dream of competing in the Indy 500 is a reality.

There are a few hurdles to overcome, of course, but it’s no surprise where Turbo is going. Getting there is all the fun, made especially fun by a star-studded voiceover cast. In addition to Reynolds, you’ll hear Samuel L. Jackson, Paul Giamatti, Michael Pena, Luis Guzman, Richard Jenkins, Bill Hader, Kurtwood Smith, Michelle Rodriguez, Mario Andretti, Snoop Dogg (the hip snail with the fuzzy dice) and Greensboro’s favorite son Ken Jeong — here voicing a woman, although it hardly matters.

There’s no mistaking that voice.

As befits the film’s premise, director/cowriter David Soren keeps his feature debut on the move throughout, augmented by some truly dazzling visual effects (this is one case where the 3-D is worth it) and a breezy sense of humor. Turbo isn’t deep or profound — and never makes a move in that direction — but it is a relaxing, entertaining summer confection. It gets by on speed, charm and expediency.

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