Saturday, August 09, 2014

KidsTalk: TURBO Makes No Sense

Turbo is a very frustrating movie. It’s very well animated, the voice work is great with stars like Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, and the script is okay, if you don't mind the patchwork of story elements obviously lifted from other movies like Ratatouille. But it has a fatal flaw that made it hard to watch: the premise.

Turbo is one of those “x dreams of being a y” stories where “y” is something outlandish, like a rat who wants to be a cook or a pig who wants to be a sheepdog. But Turbo is about a snail who dreams of winning the Indy 500. I don’t mean driving a race car in the Indy 500. A snail driving a car would kinda make sense. I mean, running in the Indy 500 himself, despite the fact that he has no wheels or even legs, and no one actually runs in the Indy 500.

Of course, the moral of the story is that you can do anything if you put your mind to it, but I think Turbo proves the opposite. A snail who wants to win the Indy 500 makes about as much sense as a mouse who wants to become the world’s tallest building. It’s a dream that doesn't make any kind of sense. It’s just not going to happen. This is the kind of idea that should have made someone take a step back to re-think the basic concept. But instead of acknowledging the impossibility, the movie goes through a tortured path to try to make it happen.

While wishing upon a star, Turbo falls into a racing car’s engine and gets soaked in nitrous oxide. The combination of nitrous oxide and a toxic soda he drinks gives him super-speed. I can accept that, sort of. What I can’t accept is that it also gives him other features of a car, like headlights, a car alarm, and even a radio. As funny as it is to see his eyes popping to Snoop Dogg’s tunes, I couldn't help thinking, “How is that even remotely possible?” But I digress.

With his newfound speed, Turbo befriends a taco store clerk (for some strange reason, maybe to draw in a Latino audience) who believes in him and wants to make the dream come true. They go to the Indy 500, where an Internet video of Turbo racing the track leads to a groundswell of support to allow Turbo to race.

Now, here’s where it gets really sticky. They repeatedly try to explain why Turbo can enter the race by saying, “There’s no rule that says a snail can’t race!” Well, no, there’s no specific rule that says a snail can’t race in the Indy 500, but there are specific rules on exactly what kind of vehicle can race in the Indy 500. Emphasis being “vehicle.” Specifically, the rules state only open wheel automobiles can race, and Turbo has no wheels. End of movie.

But no, they go ahead and Turbo gets his race. I’m probably not spoiling it to say he wins, but it all felt really hollow. I mean, I’m used to nonsensical stories in kids’ movies, but Turbo simultaneously tries to ground the story in reality while clinging to a ridiculous premise. I just couldn't buy it.

Kids liked it, though, so I guess that’s all that matters.

4 comments:

DAVID WALSTON said...

Turbo is one of those direct to video type stories.

Maurice Mitchell said...

I read a fascinating article when Turbo came out that said the message in these movies are the opposite of what's said. While these movies challenge us to follow our dreams they make the circumstances of success impossible. The true message is "follow your dreams and hope for a magic wand or genie." My son loves to sing "that snail is fast" so there you go.

Nigel G. Mitchell said...

I agree. This is the kind of movie that would make kids jump out a window to try to fly, because "you can make your dreams come true!" No, you can't. But my kids loved it, so i guess that's all that matters

Nigel G. Mitchell said...

Yeah, David, it felt like one of those cheap animated movies on Netflix except with a bigger budget. I kept thinking, "someone read this script, and thought it would be a summer blockbuster. They must have been crazy."