The Movie “Turbo”

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After all of the previews last week in New York, Toronto, Indianapolis and wherever else; I was beginning to think that Susan and I were the only IndyCar fans on the planet that had not seen the movie Turbo. Since Nashville was not privy to any sneak previews, we had to wait until the movie was released nationwide on Wednesday to see it. It was worth the wait.

Except for a post I once wrote about the dreadful movie Driven, I don’t think I’ve ever written a movie review in my life – so please bear with me.

In case you live under a rock; the producers of Shrek and other animated box-office successes have created a movie about Theo, a garden snail who has always dreamt of racing in the Indianapolis 500. Through a freak accident, Theo suddenly achieves super-powers and discovers he has incredible speed. Strange as it sounds, the plot seamlessly and halfway logically takes Theo (now called Turbo) to the grounds of IMS, where he is entered against thirty-two cars. I won’t give away the ending, just in case you haven’t heard how it ends.

Although there had been a lot of build-up and hype leading to the movie’s release, Turbo did not disappoint. Unless you cannot allow any imagination to creep into your head, the storyline is really quite believable once the movie gets going. I heard someone at my work poo-poo the storyline earlier this week, saying it was absurd. This same person is a huge Star Trek fan and is completely addicted to watching Game of Thrones, so go figure.

The storyline is easy to follow, but it should be – it’s a kid’s movie. Theo dreams big, far bigger than the mundane life his brother Chet and his fellow snails ever do. They are content with their life of slugging their way (get it?) through life each and every day. They laugh and scoff at Theo for wasting his time dreaming of the impossible.

As Theo gets closer to actually fulfilling his dream, brother Chet is the lone holdout naysayer. Once the snail is actually in the race, even Chet gets on board. The plot had sort of a Rocky feel to it – the underachiever who dreamed beyond his dull life and through a set of bizarre circumstances, finally got his shot of a lifetime. When Turbo had his encounter with Guy Gagné, the reigning five-time Indianapolis 500 champion, on the night before the race – it had the same feel when Rocky Balboa went to the ring the night before the fight and had the humbling chat with fight promoter George Jergens. Suddenly the upstart came to the intimidating realization of what was facing him the next day.

The message of the movie is very appropriate for young minds: Don’t let those that don’t have the guts to try something for themselves, discourage you from following your dreams. So many messages coming out of Hollywood are so foul and corrupt, it’s refreshing to see old-fashion values being taught.

But for me and most everyone reading this site, the best part of the movie begins when Turbo arrives at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. What the producers have done to digitally re-create the famed oval and its structures is nothing short of remarkable. The garage area is correct right down to the flags at the end of each row and the louvered doors on each garage bay. The entrance to Gasoline Alley correctly shows drain pipes from the crosswalk that runs above it. When our hero first goes out onto pit lane, the Pit Road Terrace Suites are perfectly depicted, as are the scoring pylon and the Pagoda. Shots from the infield show an exact representation of the back of the Tower Terrace Suites. Everything was correct down to the diamond grinding of the track surface itself. The accuracy was incredible.

On the way home, Susan said it best when she mentioned that she had never seen any type of movie where she knew all of the landmarks so well. She said it was almost like having our house in the movie, it was that familiar looking. The same went for their depictions of the DW12. The bulbous sidepods and the rear bumpers were exact, as well as the front wing. If I had to get real picky, the rear wings were more of the road course version instead of the low-slung rear wing they run at IMS.

There were a few “real” cars in the race. Will Power’s No. 12 Verizon car looked identical. The No. 60 Sunoco car driven by Townsend Bell in this year’s 500 was visible a few times. The Chevy test car used in the development of the DW12 with the prominent Chevy logo was shown a few times as well. Unless I missed something, the rest of the cars were all in fictitious livery – but they still looked authentic.

But it was what they did with IMS that was breathtaking. They were able to create shots and camera angles that would be impossible to get in the real world. In the virtual world, however – any swooping camera shot is possible. The producers took full advantage of this liberty. It is for this reason that I would recommend seeing Turbo in the theater. Some of the “wow-effect” is certain to be lost when watching it on DVD or Blu-Ray.

Of course, what remains to be seen is what we all wondered in March 2012, when we all learned of the project – will this movie appeal to kids and more importantly, will it create new fans in either the kids themselves, or the parents who took them to the movie? Early reports indicate that the movie will have a solid opening with around $35 million projected for the first weekend. A large portion of that figure is going to be from us – the hard-core fans. The thing is, they’ve already got us. It may be years before we know if those attending the film this weekend will be converted into new fans of IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500. But much credit needs to be given to former IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard for getting this project going.

This movie will not rattle your social consciousness. It does not attack today’s cultural issues or send you out into the parking lot shaken to your inner-core. It’s not that kind of movie. If that’s what you are looking for, I would suggest renting a copy of Schindler’s List.

But if you are looking to be entertained while experiencing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a completely different light, I would highly recommend you go see Turbo.

George Phillips

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6 Responses to “The Movie “Turbo””

  1. The only possible complaint I have with the movie is the opening date..I wish that they could have opened the movie around Memorial Day… Would have loved to have seen them set up screens and done a turbo premiere on Carb day rather than some concert I had no interest in. With the brickyard the next race at the track they may get the spike and not Indycar…

    This movie in a lot of ways is a fitting punctuation mark to Randy Bernard’s leadership (how I wish he would have been given more time)

  2. Mrs. Oilpressure Says:

    Make sure you are near a taco stand when you get out of the movie. I loved it–as George said above, their re-creation of the track in animation is well worth the price of admission. I got that thrill that I always get when they entered the gates of IMS, going under the track and entering the Speedway.

  3. agree with Nat–seems like a May opening would’ve been best for some cross-pollination between movie and race. or maybe they could’ve at least had a race the week the movie opened. randy bernard again deserves accolades. I’m not real excited to see the movie, but I hope it does well with the kids (and parents.)

  4. billytheskink Says:

    As someone whose television viewing consists largely of racing, basketball, and cartoons (and not necessarily in that order), I made it a point to see the movie on Wednesday evening. I came away from the film with two views, one as a fan of animated movies and one as a fan of Indycar.

    As a cartoon fan:
    The animation itself was top-notch, colorful and incredibly detailed. I was very impressed. While CGI artwork often struggles to make humans especially distinct or interesting, the artwork of the snails is excellent. Eyes, eyestalks, and mouths are used to great effect for expression and for performing tasks in lieu of hands. The voicework is also very good (humans and snails alike).
    The story is predictable and not terribly unique, but it is told at a brisk pace. As with so many family and kids films, this is more of a character-driven movie. That is not a bad thing, as the characters are engaging and often very funny, though there are too many of them to do much in the way of character development over the movie’s fast pace.
    Overall, it’s an above-average animated movie. It is not a classic and probably won’t win any awards, but it is a plenty enjoyable way to spend 1.5 hours.

    As an Indycar fan:
    It is hard to find anything to complain about. As George said, the rendering of the Speedway is remarkable, it is utterly perfect. The scene where the characters first enter the speedway is especially good. Mentions of the Speedway, the 500, and Indycar occur with regularity, and Indy Lights even gets a mention.
    The cars are slightly different from the DW-12, but not in any way noticeable to all but the diehard fans. I believe there was one more real car that you did not mention, George, the HP car. On that note, it was good to see Indycar’s sponsors like Verizon, Chevrolet, Firestone, HP, and Sunoco get behind the film.
    The racing action is animated with tremendous accuracy, from the speed and movement of the cars right down to the marbles.

    Of course, a snail running in the 500 is absurd, and the movie invokes the classic trope “There ain’t no rule” (that says a snail can’t race), but most movies of any genre deal with the wholly unrealistic and this shouldn’t bother anyone looking to be entertained.
    Snail racing aside, the most unrealistic thing in the movie was that the Coke lot was empty during an aerial view depiction of the 500.

    The most realistic thing, of course, was that the Indycar CEO makes an unpopular decision…

  5. "The Star Trek Fan" Says:

    Beam me up Scotty, there is no intelligent life in this movie. Oh George by the way I hear a new My little pony movies coming out soon. I look forward to the review.

    P.S. Could we consider what Barry Bonds did to gain his super power legal now?

    • billytheskink Says:

      The My Little Pony Movie already came out, actually.

      As to your second point, I look forward to your defense of kironide.

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