Elation: That’s what Theo (Ryan Reynolds), a garden snail with dreams of race-car-driving glory, feels when, thanks to a nitrous oxide mishap, he becomes a speed demon and a serious contender in the Indy 500. Deflation: That’s what you’ll feel after sitting through this DreamWorks animated feature that laps the competition in genericness. Whether you’re a viewer who hasn’t endured your share of decent-to-dreadful toons this summer or someone who survived Epic (for which we offer our deepest condolences), this exercise in brightly colored, computer-rendered demographic pandering will inspire waves of shrugging - and beaucoup déjà vu.
Anthropomorphized creatures, underdogs banding together, follow-your-bliss platitudes, toothless satirical digs (Theo works an assembly-line job at “The Plant”—which is an actual plant. Jokes!), recognizable celebrity voices and pop songs that cover the urban-to-MOR spectrum: These elements form the basic DNA of 99 percent of modern animated family entertainment. But as Pixar and others have demonstrated, you can use these building blocks to construct movies that have depth and that keep parents from wanting to open a vein, while still being a sugar-rush conduit. All Turbo does is give Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Samuel L. Jackson and Snoop Dogg the easiest paychecks they’ll ever make, and its corporate overlords the chance to sell a few toys. The only unique element it brings to the table is putting a Hispanic character front and center—a diversity effort diminished by the fact that he’s a taco-truck driver who skirts perilously close to cringeworthy caricature. One step forward, several high-speed steps back. It can’t be gone fast enough.