LOS ANGELES — An attractively designed but narratively challenged, one-note film, “Turbo” skews younger than the norm for big animated features these days and has limited appeal for little girls.
“The sooner you accept the dull, miserable nature of your existence, the happier you'll be,” snail Chet (Paul Giamatti) advises his younger brother, Turbo (Ryan Reynolds), after another day scouring a garden tomato patch.
Turbo spends all his downtime watching VHS tapes of professional car races, especially the many won by his hero, Guy Gagne (Bill Hader, amusingly assuming a French-Canadian accent).
Of course, the message of the film, as with so many other kid-inspirational cartoons and other fantasies, is that no dream is too big, you can do anything if you set your mind to it, etc. Unfortunately, the real embedded lesson of “Turbo” is that, if you're too small or weak or otherwise incapable of greatness, you have a shot to win if you're juiced.
Which is what happens late one night when Turbo, coming upon a “Fast & Furious”-style drag race in the dry LA River bed, gets sucked into an engine. Instead of being toasted, however, the little guy becomes infused with nitrous oxide, enabling him to zoom along the ground.
Of course, Turbo needs a sponsor, which he finds in the form of Van Nuys taco truck driver Tito (Michael Pena) and his brother Angelo (Luis Guzman).
The ultimate destination — Indianapolis — is inevitable, but it takes a long time to get there, given a script that is short on invention and long on largely unfunny yacking. Once the gang arrives, the hitherto genial Guy Gagne suddenly becomes a villain, feeling so threatened by the now-mighty mollusk that he goes to all lengths to prevent an eternally humiliating defeat.