There's nothing really wrong with "Turbo," a cute story of a plucky snail who aspires to be a racer. It's just that there's nothing to this DreamWorks Animation adventure except pleasantly formulaic storytelling and predictable follow-your-dreams sentimentality.
Theo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) works with his fellow snails in a tomato garden, waiting for the overripe fruit to drop while they avoid such dangers as passing crows, lawn mowers and a Big Wheel-riding kid nicknamed "The Shellcrusher." Theo, being the hero of an animated movie, wants something more in life. He wants to be a racer, even if his top speed in the one-yard dash is 17 minutes.
Then, as fate (and screenwriting shortcuts) would have it, Theo, who prefers the nickname Turbo, lands atop a street-racing car, gets sucked into the engine and is hit with a blast of nitrous oxide. And, like Peter Parker getting a radioactive spider's bite, Turbo's DNA is altered so that he can zip along at 200 mph and higher.
Turbo and his worrywart brother Chet (voiced by Paul Giamatti) get banished from the garden, and ultimately end up in a rundown strip mall in Van Nuys, Calif. There, they are adopted by Tito (voiced by Michael Peña), a human who runs a taco joint with his brother Angelo (voiced by Luiz Guzman). Tito, like Turbo, has big dreams of promoting the taco restaurant and restoring the strip mall to its former glory. Angelo, like Chet, exists mainly to rain on his parade.
Tito's dreams and Turbo's dovetail when they see a chance to enter Turbo in the Indianapolis 500. Yes, it's inevitable that somebody utters the words "there's nothing in the rules that says a snail can't enter the race," because if someone didn't say it, we wouldn't have a movie.
Following the Pixar playbook, director David Soren and co-writers Darren Lemke and Robert D. Siegel create adoptive families for Turbo and Tito one made up of racing snails (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Rudolph, Snoop Dogg and others), the other formed by Tito's strip-mall neighbors (voiced by Michelle Rodriguez, Ken Jeong and Richard Jenkins). And, in a straight lift from Pixar's "Cars," there's a rousing finale that culminates in The Big Race.
The animation is colorful and fluid, as the computer smoothes out the quirks and bumps along the way. Unfortunately, "Turbo" feels like the screenplay was run through the same computer, programmed to sand away anything unfamiliar or different from a dozen previous animated stories.
A snail aspires to race in the Indianapolis 500, in this pleasantly by-the-numbers computer-animated adventure.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens Wednesday, July 17
Rating • PG for some mild action and thematic elements
Running time • 96 minutes.