I like to think of Turbo as the little (car) engine that could. With his super speed, he defies the odds and achieves his dream of living in the fast lane as a racer.
However, he wasn’t always speedy. When Turbo opens, the little snail is completely ordinary, and that’s where his problem lies– he doesn’t want to be another garden snail, and he despises the slow pace of his life. His defiance against the very nature of being a snail makes him quite the headache for his brother, Chet, who wishes he would simply accept his lot in life in the tomato garden.
Turbo’s speed is gained when he is knocked into the engine of a car and infused with nitrous oxide. His unusual ability goes on to make him the talk of Starlight Plaza, a strip mall that has seen better days, and eventually the world. Turbo would’ve never ended up at the plaza with Chet if not for Tito, the driver of a taco truck who captured them for snail races. It is at one of these races that Turbo meets Whiplash and his posse of racing snails, including Smoove Move, Burn, Skidmark, and White Shadow.
Eventually, Tito enters Turbo in the Indianapolis 500, where the superstar snail meets his hero, Guy Gagne. Unfortunately, Guy is not the upstanding person Turbo expected, and he injures Turbo during the race, thereby lessening his super speed. He goes on to loose the power completely near the end of the race but manages to win. Later, Turbo’s super speed is restored once he heals from his injuries.
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of Turbo is the setting– when operating from a snail’s perspective, everything, from a tomato to a race track, is bigger and more spectacular. I especially enjoy how the Starlight Plaza strip mall, which would be a mundane, lackluster environment in any other film, is an immersive world of it’s own due to Turbo’s point of view. The garden setting, too, is vibrant, and it’s fun to get a glimpse into the tomato-harvesting lives of snails.
The designs of Turbo and the racing snails are delightful, as each character has their own eye-catching color palette and drag racing inspired shell. Also, the snails’ voice actors are respectable, with Ryan Reynolds as Turbo, Samuel L. Jackson as Whiplash, Maya Rudolph as Burn, and Snoop Dogg as Smoove Move. Among the human characters are Michael Pena as Tito, Bill Hader as Guy Gagne, Michelle Rodriguez as the mechanic Paz, and Ken Jeong as manicurist Kim-Ly.
Of course, Turbo’s message of chasing your dreams despite the challenges and the disapproval of others is one that all can relate to. It’s a classic underdog story, but it’s told in an original way. Though small, Turbo serves as a big inspiration to all who have an ambitious goal and a lot of passion.