Aesop's fable of the tortoise and the hare gets a Formula One makeover in "Turbo" (DreamWorks), a rollicking 3-D animated comedy about a garden snail whose wish for super-speed is unexpectedly granted.
Directed and co-written by newcomer David Soren, "Turbo" is a warmhearted family adventure that champions the underdog in the spirit of Rocky Balboa.
In the tomato patch of a suburban Los Angeles home lives a colony of snails, whose daily regimen is to harvest the ripest of fruit for consumption, while avoiding predators like birds, lawnmowers and obnoxious kids. It's a mundane existence from which Theo (voice of Ryan Reynolds) longs to escape.
Theo's passion is speed, and he commandeers the homeowner's VCR at night to watch Grand Prix racing, especially the exploits of champion driver Guy Gagne (voice of Bill Hader).
He takes to heart Guy's mantra, "No dream's too big and no dreamer's too small," much to the chagrin of Theo's more practical-minded brother snail, Chet (voice of Paul Giamatti).
Watching the cars zooming along the freeway one evening, Theo is sucked into the engine of a souped-up drag racer. Doused with chemicals, he undergoes a physical transformation a la Spider-Man. Suddenly, he's capable of speeds exceeding 200 mph -- and adopts a new moniker, Turbo.
Turbo's superpowers are put to good use when he chases a crow that has snatched Chet. He saves his brother, but they find themselves in a down-and-out strip mall anchored by the Dos Bros Tacos shack, run by brothers Angelo (voice of Luis Guzman) and Tito (voice of Michael Pena).
Sensible Angelo manages the failing business, while lazy Tito schemes for new customers. When the snails drop into his lap, he's delighted, as he "races" snails in his spare time. But Turbo is no ordinary snail now, and his super-speed shocks Tito ("Santa Maria!" he exclaims, in the film's sole reference to Christianity) and inspires him to dream big.
Against Angelo's wishes, Tito rallies his fellow shopowners to join him on a cross-country odyssey to enter Turbo in the Indianapolis 500, where he will be pitted against his idol, Guy.
Joining Turbo as his pit crew are a rout of eccentric but similar-minded snails with names like Whiplash (voice of Samuel L. Jackson), Burn (voice of Maya Rudolph), and Skid Mark (voice of Ben Schwartz).
What ensues is a tale of two brothers, human and escargot, and how chasing a seemingly impossible dream strengthens the bonds of love and trust.
Chet, like Angelo, is a realist, concerned for his brother's safety and mental health.
"What will happen if you wake up tomorrow and your powers are gone?" he asks.
"Then I better make the most of today," Turbo replies.
Indeed he does, and this Little Mollusk That Could roars around the track to a thumping soundtrack which includes -- naturally -- Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" theme from "Rocky III."
Cartoonish action sequences involving menacing birds and car crashes may frighten the smallest youngsters, but "Turbo" is silly and innocent fun for all ages.
The film contains a few perilous situations. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.
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