Film Reviews

Dreamworks’ Turbo

Some movies, you know exactly what to expect before it even starts. This was one of them. Story-wise, it wasn’t too bad, it’s just that most people over the age of 10 have seen it several times before. It’s derivative. Plus, from start to finish, I just didn’t care about the characters, or anything that was happening. I’m fairly easy to please when it comes to animation, but ultimately this film failed to be interesting.

One major knock against the film – the gags weren’t that funny. Part of this may be due to overexposure – all of the “good” jokes had already been used in the trailers, leaving little for the film itself. In fact, it felt as though the rest of the film was little more than filler – connective tissue between all the bits previously shown in the trailers.

Here’s one example of narrative failure: From the start, the film paints the top Indy 500 racer – Guy Gagne – as a good sport and an inspirational figure. And then – surprise – he ends up becoming the film’s villian. That is not a spoiler – nearly every trailer and tv ad had already spelled out very clearly that he’s the bad guy. The film goes through the trouble of setting up the switch, but it just doesn’t work because the entire audience already knows he’s a dick.

That really is my biggest complaint about the film – anything that might have been worth seeing had already been spoiled, thanks to the advertising. There really isn’t much more to see that can’t be predicted. From the trailers you already know Turbo dreams of being fast, gets his wish granted, gets found by some guy and introduced to a crew of racing snails, races in the Indy 500… And if you’ve seen any 5 average animated films from the last decade or so, you also know Turbo’s super-speed will eventually fail on him, but he’ll somehow manage to win the race without it, and maybe some sort of life-lesson will be learned along the way.

If anything, this film – or at least its epilogue – felt like it was paving the way for a tv show. Perhaps they should have skipped the high-budget feature, and produced a tv pilot instead. At least then its failure might not have been as much of a nut-punch to the studio.

As much as I didn’t care for the film, I felt it could have some redeeming value on video – I certainly have far worse films on my shelf as reference (looking at you, Ice Age series and Hotel Transylvania). After reading the short list of bonus features, I reconsidered this notion. Like the Croods before it, Turbo doesn’t appear to have any meaningful bonus features – no behind-the-scenes featurette (that doesn’t focus primarily on the voice talent); no “Animators’ Corner”, no audio commentary… Since Turbo and The Croods are the first Dreamworks films distributed by 20th Century Fox, I’m worried that this could be a pattern. On the other hand, this lack of extras has saved me from wasting money on an otherwise lackluster film.