Digital animations are, more often than not, propelled by unlikely underdogs; by little engines that could. The humble crop-duster hero of Disney's Planes wants to win a race around the world; Ratatouille's rodent Remy hopes to become a world-class chef; video game villain Wreck-It Ralph wants to be the good guy; Kung Fu Panda wants to be, well, a Kung Fu Panda.
In this spirit, Turbo, a common garden snail voiced affably by Ryan Reynolds, dreams of competing in the Indianapolis 500. Hey, it's a talking snail: how hard can speeds of 200mph be? Quite hard, it transpires, until Turbo ends up under a car bonnet in a Fast and Furious 3- inspired tussle. The accident and a jab of nitrous oxide leaves our mollusc hero with speedy superpowers, abilities that soon land Turbo and his exasperated, conservative brother Chet (Paul Giamatti) at a shabby Los Angeles shopping centre. Here, Turbo is championed by Taco-selling dreamer Tito (Michael Peña) and struggling local business owners (voiced by and approximately fashioned according to the shapes of Richard Jenkins, Michelle Rodriguez, Ken Jeong and Luis Guzman).
He also befriends the badass racing gastropods – Samuel L. Jackson, Snoop Dogg and Maya Rudolph — who become his pit crew. But even with cool chums and newfound benefactors in our hero's corner, taking on the reigning French-Canadian Indy 500 champion (Bill Hader) without getting squished is a big ask of a little snail.
Turbo was considered a box office flop on its US release last July. The film has sunsequently recouped more than $200 million worldwide and deserves as much. The animated races are fast and fun, the jokes are hip without being too snarky and the starry voice cast is super.