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Originally published July 17, 2013 at 12:07 AM | Page modified July 18, 2013 at 12:47 PM

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‘Turbo’: Small snail, big dreams

A review of the animated charmer “Turbo,” about a common garden snail who dreams of speed. Central characters are voiced by Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti and Michael Peña.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 3 stars

‘Turbo,’ with Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Samuel L. Jackson, Luis Guzmán, Bill Hader, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez. Directed by David Soren, from a screenplay by Soren, Darren Lemke and Robert Siegel. 96 minutes. Rated PG for some mild action and thematic elements. Several theaters.

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Even within the world of animated-film logic, it’s a bit of a stretch that a snail — even one with superpowers gained during a trip through a car’s engine — could compete in the Indianapolis 500. But such is the premise of “Turbo,” directed by David Soren, and it’s implausible but nonetheless pretty adorable. Turbo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), whose real name is Theo, is a common garden snail who dreams of speed; he practices snail-speed sprints in the basement of the house where he “works” in the tomato patch. Chet (Paul Giamatti), his brother, tries to discourage his dreams, but Turbo is determined — and finally, with the arrival of those speedy superpowers and some help from a snail-loving taco-stand owner (Michael Peña), lives his dream.

All of this is about as predictable as your average fairy tale (yes, everyone lives happily ever after), but it’s an enjoyable ride, and the 8-year-old accompanying me had a blast. (He especially loved an early sequence in the garden, where Turbo tries to devise strategies to avoid having squishy tomatoes fall on him, and repeatedly fails.) Turbo, whose animators have given him a disarmingly sweet smile, has an eagerness and charm that are irresistible, and Giamatti gives Chet a funny, long-suffering quality that makes him a perfect sidekick. Among the supporting characters, Samuel L. Jackson shines as not-so-fast racing snail Whiplash (he knows exactly how to spin lines like, “Your trash talk is needlessly complicated”), and Bill Hader brings a French Canadian lilt to villain race-car driver Guy Gagné, who calls Turbo “my leetle competition.”

The animation won’t make you forget Pixar, but it’s as good as it needs to be and sometimes (during the zippy race, and in an idyllic garden scene in which we see the snail’s spiraled shells close-up) much more. Ultimately, “Turbo” nicely lives up to its diminutive hero’s credo of “No dream is too big, and no dreamer too small” — a pleasant thought, for people of all sizes.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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