"That snail is fast!" This tagline sums up all you need to know about Turbo, the rather ironic tale of a garden snail who races in the Indy 500. The latest computer-animated flick from Dreamworks tells a typically predictable underdog story, with the proper doses of humor and heartwarming moments. It's totally cliché, but still great family fun.
Voiced by Ryan Reynolds, Turbo (née Theo) is a simple garden snail who is fed up with his humdrum life in the tomato patch with his overly cautious brother Chet (Paul Giamatti). When he isn't working with overripe fruit at "the plant," the ambitious little snail watches old car race tapes and dreams of being fast like French-Canadian Indy 500 champion Guy Gagne (voiced by Bill Hader). Then one fateful night, Turbo is exposed to nitrous oxide and effectively transformed into a car, equipped with a radio, alarm, headlights, and best of all, super speed. Turbo's newfound abilities quickly come into play when he rescues Chet from a crow attack, but the two brothers are then snatched up by a taco truck driver named Tito Lopez. Just when they think they're about to become escargot, Chet and Turbo are surprised to find that Tito only wants to enter them in a snail race.
Tito and his brother Angelo operate the struggling Dos Bros taco stand in a ramshackle strip mall with a hobby shop, nail salon, and auto repair shop. The owners are friends, racing snails together to take their minds off their failing businesses. But when they discover Turbo's incredible talents, they decide to show him off to the world. With hopes to win the Indy 500 and put their strip mall on the map, the shop owners and their snails band together to travel to Indianapolis. Then, it's all up to Turbo and his supersnail speed.
With a star-studded cast boasting the likes of Maya Rudolph, Samuel L. Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Michelle Rodriguez, Luis Guzmán, Michale Pena and Richard Jenkins, Turbo is an adorable film about a little snail with big dreams. While some animated movies focus solely on entertaining the kids, and others devote too much energy to appeasing the adults, Turbo manages to achieve a nice balance of humor that will have parents and their children laughing together. And it promotes the inspiring messages that we want our children to be exposed to: 1) Follow your dreams, no matter how outlandish they may be. 2) Your heroes may disappoint you, but you can become your own hero. 3) Taco trucks are awesome.
Indeed, Turbo features some nice contemporary touches, like the ever-popular food truck, a viral video subplot, and a French-accented car-racing villain à la Talladega Nights. Still, there is absolutely nothing surprising about this movie, which isn't necessarily to its detriment but certainly makes for a less exciting viewing experience. There's comic relief (most notably Ken Jeong's voice performance as a feisty female manicurist) and a bit of suspense, but we're never too worried that things won't turn out okay in the end. Is it realistic? Of course not. But is it fun? Most definitely. In effect, it's an easy movie to watch and enjoy for 90 minutes or so, but you probably won't find yourself hankering for a repeat viewing. While Turbo is nothing groundbreaking, it's a charming film with a lot of heart.
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Richard Riddick (Vin Diesel) has a really bad rep and with good reason: Five years ago convicted killer Riddick escaped the galaxy's law enforcement during a botched interplanetary prison transfer and has been on the lam ever since. As The Chronicles of Riddick picks up our antagonist finds his relative freedom has been compromised when mercenaries out for the $1 million bounty on his head discover his location and hunt him down. Riddick escapes their clutches steals their ship and sets off for Planet Helion to find Imam (Keith David) the Muslim cleric he rescued in Pitch Black and the only person who could have squealed his location to authorities. But while Riddick's hunch about Imam are correct the cleric has a reason for luring the mammoth murderer out of hiding: Helion is falling to unholy armies of Necromongers--warriors who conquer by force in the vein of Star Trek's Borg. Of course Riddick doesn't give a damn about the Helions or their plight--until he gets wind that the Necromogers want to kill him because of an old prophecy that foresees their end at Riddick's hands. Like it or not Riddick is left with no other choice but to battle the Necromongers.
The character of Riddick is unquestionably what made Pitch Black one of the most sequel-worthy sci-fi films in years. And Riddick would not have been one of sci-fi's most intoxicating characters if it weren't for Diesel. Like his Dominic Toretto in the 2001 actioner The Fast and the Furious Riddick is a villain of few words but when he speaks his carefully chosen words have impact--even if the dialogue is at times overly theatrical. Riddick is the perfect antihero; a cold-blooded and indifferent being who somehow evokes more compassion than the film's so-called good guys. Joining Riddick are some recurring characters including David as Imam but Riddick benefits the most from the addition of some new characters particularly Colm Feore as Lord Marshal the Necromonger leader whose goal is to rid the universe of all human life. Feore channeling nuggets of Julius Caesar into his role makes for one of Riddick's most thrilling foes. Another prominent addition to the cast is Judi Dench who has a surprisingly small role as Aereon an Elemental captured by the Necromongers and used for her special powers including ESP.
Writer/director David Twohy took his horror pic Pitch Black which gained a cult following since it was released four years ago and managed to successfully turn it into an sci-fi actioner of epic proportions. Everything is grander here which is almost a given considering Twohy shot Pitch Black on a dime in Australia using colored filters. In Riddick the director distinguishes the film's different environments--the Necros' mothership Crematoria's cavernous prison and Helion--using warm to cool tones that are dazzling yet more subtle than its predecessor. The CGI effects get a little gamey at times but production designer Holger Gross' gargantuan sets are impressive and help craft Twohy's otherworldly vision into a plausible one. And although Twohy jumps genres from Pitch Black to its sequel his storyline evolves logically from the original premise. But while moviegoers unfamiliar with Pitch Black will be able to follow the story easily enough they may have a difficult time grasping what makes Riddick such a big deal; the film explains the legend but never fully captures its quintessence. This could hurt Riddick's chances to broaden its Pitch Black fan base.