Movie Review: Turbo

Movie Review: Turbo

Teaching kids to challenge mother nature and dream big

By Mark HadleyWednesday 18 Sep 2013MoviesReading Time: 4 minutes

Kids film’s are great for encouraging little minds to dream big dreams, and DreamWorks’ latest animated tale Turbo is that sort of ‘be all you can be’ story. However we should all pause for thought when a film identifies ‘mother nature’ as the problem.

 Mark Hadley reviews 'Turbo'.

Turbo is the story of a garden snail called Theo (voice by Ryan Reynolds) who is obsessed with formula one racing. Every day he joins the rest of the snails at ‘the plant’ working on the messy and repetitive job of harvesting tomatoes. But every night he sits in front of a garage VCR dreaming that he could be as fast as his hero Guy Gagné. And in the opening minutes of the film Guy tells us where the next 90 minutes will take us:

“As my dear father always told me, ‘No dream is too big and no dreamer too small.’”

One day while attempting to live out his own dreams Theo gets sucked into the supercharger of a street racer and exposed to nitrous oxide. The high-octane fuel affects our hero at a molecular level, producing the first 200-mph snail. Theo, now Turbo, is capable of phenomenal feats of speed. But can he get anyone to take his hopes of entering the Indianapolis 500 seriously?

Turbo rockets along a well-defined route laid down by predecessors like A Bug’s Life, Happy Feet and more recently How To Train Your Dragon and Brave. Hollywood loves to introduce kids to characters who dare to dream of being something other than what their society slates them to be. Along for the ride are a fairly predictable supporting cast including the ‘outsider friends’ – Theo hooks up with a crew of racing snails – and the ‘voice of reason’, in this case Theo’s brother Chet (Paul Giamatti). Chet tries to convince Theo that speed isn’t an option for a snail. There are certain basic realities that can’t be overturned and your birth is one of them:

Theo: “It’s in me!”

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Chet: “No, it’s not!”

Theo: “Who says?”

Chet: “Mother Nature! And the sooner you accept the dull reality of your life, the better.”

But it’s more than a matter of defying social conventions when Chet brings ‘Mother Nature’ into the argument. Turbo moves beyond a boy wanting to be an inventor instead of a Viking, or a girl pushing to be an archer instead of a princess. It’s even a world away from a penguin wanting to dance rather than sing. Using bright, simplistic characters, the writers of Turbo suggest that just because someone is born a snail, doesn’t mean they have to stay one. Let that sink in. Then ask yourself, who decided that the snail should be a snail in the first place? And so ‘Mother Nature’ becomes the polite alias for any force saying we were created to be a certain way. 

Now, I’m not suggesting a DreamWorks conspiracy to attack the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality or gender reassignment. That would be attributing far too much villainy to writer/director David Soren and crew. But it’s worth considering how the increasingly strident demands of individualism filter down into the world of children’s entertainment. The truth of God’s word isn’t the only thing under question. The advantage for society, the collective experience of family, the wisdom of elders and now birth itself all have to bow before what I feel inside to be true. Worse, there’s also no time to consider the weight of their opposition.

Turbo’s storyline is driven by the power of the ‘now’. Theo has to reach for his dream now, has to enter this year’s race, has to be all he can be today:

Chet: “What happens if you wake up tomorrow and your powers are gone?”

Theo: “Then I’d better make the most of today.”

The story has to move at light speed because its cartoon world is built on the premise that no-one will help us unless we help ourselves. This ‘live in the moment’ philosophy sounds attractive but it’s not long before it turns into the ‘tyranny of the now’. I would rather teach my kids that God ‘knitted them together’ in their mother’s womb to be who they are, and that they don’t have to live in fear of missing out on some good thing because, 

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  

– and that purpose begins not with fulfilling my desires, but following Jesus.

Rating: PG
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: September 19