A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Turbo is a funny animated underdog comedy with strong positive messages. Themes that run throughout the movie (and are reinforced constantly) include believing in yourself, following your dreams, and never giving up. Kids will find the silly characters endlessly amusing, with only a little bit of innuendo, stereotyping, and potty humor to contend with. The biggest concern is the repeated scenes of peril, in which the beloved snails seem to be in danger thanks to a lawnmower, a busy freeway, plentiful crows, and a car crash. But all scenes involving major characters are resolved positively.
What's the story?
TURBO (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) is a speed-obsessed garden snail who, more than anything, wants to compete in the Indy 500. He's a misfit in his slow-moving snail community until a freak accident with Nitrous Oxide gives him car-like abilities, including eyes that light up like headlights, a red-blinking shell akin to taillights, and, of course, speed. When Turbo and his naysaying brother, Chet (Paul Giamatti), are captured by human Tito (Michael Pena), whose after-hours snail racing hobby reveals Turbo's remarkable talents, Turbo and his misfit band of supporters make their way to Indianapolis, where Turbo becomes an unlikely competitor in the most famous race in the world.
Is it any good?
Turbo does lots of things right when it comes to making an engaging, funny animated movie for kids. It's got a main character kids can root for and relate to, plus a menagerie of supporting characters who amp up the laughs (White Shadow, voiced by Michael Bell, steals the show). Kids don't care that the concept of a snail being allowed to race in the Indy 500 is completely implausible and full of logic problems. (Nor do they care that the tacos featured in the taco stand/truck aren't authentic.) They'll love the little details, like when Tito puts Turbo to bed with a packet of taco sauce for a pillow and a warm tortilla for a blanket.
But the movie's simplicity and lack of surprises are what keep it from being a true stand-out for kids. We never doubt that Turbo and Tito will be successful. Any subplots are sped through with little attention. And while the urban setting, hip-hop soundtrack, and ethnically diverse cast are welcome additions to the kids' movie pantheon, the setting doesn't feel fully realized. Overall, kids will totally enjoy the movie, but it might not stick in their minds for long.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movies being realistic. Do you think it's important that stories seem believable in real life? Is it hard to enjoy a movie if the concept seems too far-fetched?
What did you notice about where Turbo was set? Have you seen any other animated movies set in urban environments like this one? Did the characters seem to fit the location? Did you notice any stereotypes?
What kinds of dreams do you have? Who supports your dreams? Does anyone tell you your dreams are unrealistic? How do you feel when that happens?
- In theaters: July 17, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: November 12, 2013
- Cast: Michael Pena, Paul Giamatti, Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson
- Director: David Soren
- Studio: DreamWorks Animation
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Cars and Trucks, Brothers and Sisters, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild action and thematic elements
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.