Making the Grades
Have you ever wanted to go fast? I mean really fast. Turbo (voice by Ryan Reynolds) does. But despite his zippy name and his need for speed, Turbo is a snail with a velocity that rivals that of slow moving tar.
Regardless of the taunts from his fellow mollusks and the discouraging comments from his brother Chet (voice by Paul Giamatti), Turbo still dreams of following in the footsteps of his hero, racecar driver Guy Gagne (voice by Bill Hader). Every night after working in the tomato patch, Turbo watches old videotapes of Guy’s track triumphs and imagines himself wearing the laurel wreath around his snail neck. Yet after nearly being crushed while trying to outrun a lawnmower, Turbo gets laughed out of the garden.
Despondently inching his way across a highway overpass, he is accidentally knocked into the Los Angeles aqueduct system where he falls on the hood of a souped-up street racer. As the car barrels off the start line, Turbo is sucked into the manifold and immersed in nitrous oxide. This unintended dunking turns the slow moving snail into a blistering speed machine.
However his new ability for acceleration remains unappreciated—at least until a taco hawker named Tito (voice by Michael Peña) captures Turbo and Chet. When Turbo rips up a makeshift track during a local snail racing competition, Tito begins to dream big. But not big enough for Turbo. With Guy Gagne in his sights, Turbo turns Tito’s attention to the Indianapolis 500.
One must give screenwriters Darren Lemke, Robert D. Siegel and David Soren credit for pulling off an idea so utterly ridiculous and contradictory as a snail on the world’s most famous racetrack. In essence Turbo is a classic sports story complete with trash talking and an Eye of the Tiger musical interlude. It also explores family dynamics and champions the spirit of teamwork as Tito’s fellow storeowners in a rundown strip mall try to save their dying businesses. As well the DreamWorks’ team earns applause for the amazing animation that adds authenticity to the depictions of Los Angeles inner city streets.
While the characters in this story experience moments of peril and some brief violence (including a startling incident when a bird smashes into a bus window), the film never drives out of bounds for families with older children. Keeping its content concerns in check, the story focuses on pursuing life goals. While that may seem a little hokey in a world where dreams don’t always come true, Turbo’s success can’t happen without the support of others. Luckily for this little speedster, he has a whole road crew cheering him all the way to the winner’s circle.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Turbo.
How are cultural groups and individuals depicted in this story? Do these portrayals promote stereotypes in a positive or negative way?
Chet tells Turbo that not every dream is meant to come true. How can parents help their children balance their aspirations with a sense of reality? Should parents ever discourage their children’s dreams? Can a person find alternate ways to achieve success if his or her original plans don’t work out?
Although the film’s content concerns are fairly limited, the movie does depict street racing, speeding and the excessive use of energy drinks. How can parents use these portrayals to talk about these risky behaviors with their children?
Turbo becomes an Internet sensation after a recording of his local snail race goes viral. What impact does social networking have on pop culture? How can it create instant fame?