Reel Reviews

‘Turbo’

Audience:
A-I – general patronage

 

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A speedy snail tale

Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare gets a Formula One makeover in “Turbo” (DreamWorks), a rollicking 3-D animated comedy about a garden snail whose wish for super-speed is unexpectedly granted.

Directed and co-written by newcomer David Soren, “Turbo” is a warmhearted family adventure that champions the underdog in the spirit of Rocky Balboa. In the tomato patch of a suburban Los Angeles home lives a colony of snails, whose daily regimen is to harvest the ripest of fruit for consumption, while avoiding predators like birds, lawnmowers and obnoxious kids. It’s a mundane existence from which Theo (voice of Ryan Reynolds) longs to escape.

Theo’s passion is speed, and he commandeers the homeowner’s VCR at night to watch Grand Prix racing, especially the exploits of champion driver Guy Gagne (voice of Bill Hader). He takes to heart Guy’s mantra, “No dream's too big and no dreamer’s too small,” much to the chagrin of Theo’s more practical-minded brother snail, Chet (voice of Paul Giamatti).

Watching the cars zooming along the freeway one evening, Theo is sucked into the engine of a souped-up drag racer. Doused with chemicals, he undergoes a physical transformation a la Spider-Man. Suddenly, he’s capable of speeds exceeding 200 mph – and adopts a new moniker, Turbo. His superpowers are put to good use when he chases a crow that has snatched Chet. He saves his brother, but they find themselves in a down-and-out strip mall anchored by the Dos Bros Tacos shack, run by brothers Angelo (voice of Luis Guzman) and Tito (voice of Michael Pena).

Sensible Angelo manages the failing business, while lazy Tito schemes for new customers. When the snails drop into his lap, he’s delighted, as he “races” snails in his spare time. But Turbo is no ordinary snail now, and his super-speed shocks Tito (“Santa Maria!” he exclaims, in the film’s sole reference to Christianity) and inspires him to dream big.

Against Angelo’s wishes, Tito rallies his fellow shop owners to join him on a cross-country odyssey to enter Turbo in the Indianapolis 500, where he will be pitted against his idol, Guy. Joining Turbo as his pit crew are a rout of eccentric but similar-minded snails with names like Whiplash (voice of Samuel L. Jackson), Burn (voice of Maya Rudolph), and Skid Mark (voice of Ben Schwartz).

What ensues is a tale of two brothers, human and escargot, and how chasing a seemingly impossible dream strengthens the bonds of love and trust. Chet, like Angelo, is a realist, concerned for his brother’s safety and mental health.

“What will happen if you wake up tomorrow and your powers are gone?” he asks. “Then I better make the most of today,” Turbo replies. Indeed he does, and this Little Mollusk That Could roars around the track to a thumping soundtrack which includes – naturally – Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” theme from “Rocky III.”

Cartoonish action sequences involving menacing birds and car crashes may frighten the smallest youngsters, but “Turbo” is silly and innocent fun for all ages.

The film contains a few perilous situations. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

‘The Lone Ranger’

Audience:
L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling

 

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Not your father’s masked man

The golden-age radio program that first had America asking, “Who was that masked man?” was a favorite with youngsters, as too was the popular television series it later spawned.

So parents may assume, going in, that “The Lone Ranger” (Disney) – a big-screen attempt to provide an answer to that now 80-year-old question – is a family-friendly project geared to kids. Alas, for a variety of reasons, especially the film's treatment of religion, such an assumption would be dead wrong.

This eccentric and overlong reinterpretation of the familiar story centers not on the crime-fighting frontier hero (Armie Hammer) of the title, but on his faithful Native American companion, Tonto (Johnny Depp). When we first encounter Depp’s whimsical Tonto, he's an elderly man living, inexplicably, within a 1930s diorama of the Wild West.

Viewers are invited to feel their first enjoyable shiver of revisionist superiority as they observe that the display case holding Tonto labels him “The Noble Savage.” Oh, those insensitive Depression-era lug heads!

The chance visit of a boy in a Lone Ranger outfit provokes a stream of reminiscences from Tonto, during which he recounts the circumstances that initially brought him together with lawyer-turned-lawman John Reid, his future “Ke-mo sah-bee.” He also recalls their struggle to capture Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), a viciously depraved outlaw one of whose crimes was to have a life-altering impact on Reid.

Set primarily amid the race to complete the transcontinental railroad -- with Tom Wilkinson playing train company executive Latham Cole, the shady driving force behind that effort – director Gore Verbinski’s action comedy offers a warning about the corrupting influence of greed. It also portrays, at least in accurate outline, the victimization of native peoples that resulted from the headlong pursuit of wealth and industrial expansion.

But one of the aspects of European culture that gets trounced is Christianity, with believers shown up as either weaklings or hypocrites.

Early on, one of the former, a Presbyterian church lady, invites Reid to pray with her during a train ride. In response, Reid holds up the book he's been reading on the journey – philosopher John Locke’s 1689 text “Two Treatises of Government” – and identifies it as “my Bible.”

Later, a cavalry officer who is responsible for massacring Indians repeatedly invokes God while ordering his troops into battle. And Cole, whose villainy becomes increasingly obvious, offers a smarmy grace that shows he uses God to his own purposes. By contrast, and in keeping with Hollywood’s current norms, Native American spirituality and values are generally glorified.

Add to these factors Cavendish’s taste for human flesh, the played-for-laughs proclivity on the part of one of his accomplices for wearing women’s clothes and a series of scenes in a brothel, and the resulting mix does not recommend itself for youthful – or even casual adult – consumption.

The film contains a negative treatment of Christian faith, considerable action violence with some gore, mature themes, including cannibalism and prostitution, a transvestite character, brief scatological imagery and humor and at least one crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (June)

A
Across the Divide, A-II (no rating)
Admission, L (PG-13)
After Earth, A-III (PG-13)
Amour, L (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
B
The Big Wedding, O (R)
Bullet to the Head, O (R)
Bully, A-III (PG-13)
C
The Call, O (R)
The Croods, A-I (PG)
D
Dead Man Down, O (R)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
E
Epic, A-I (PG)
Evil Dead, O (R)
F
Fast & Furious 6, L (PG-13)
42, A-III (PG-13)
G
G.I. Joe: Retaliation, A-III (PG-13)
A Good Day to Die Hard, L (R)
The Great Gatsby, A-III (PG-13)
H
The Hangover Part III, L (R)
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, O (R)
The Host, A-III (PG-13)
I
Identity Thief, L (R)
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, L (PG-13)
Iron Man 3, A-III (PG-13)
J
Jack the Giant Slayer, A-II (PG-13)
K
Killer Elite, A-III (R)
L
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
M
Movie 43, O (R)
Mud, A-III (PG-13)
O
Oblivion, A-III (PG-13)
Olympus Has Fallen, L (R)
The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, A-I (G)
Oz the Great and Powerful, A-II (PG)
P
Pain and Gain, O (R)
Peeples, O (PG-13)
Phantom, A-III (R)
The Place Beyond the Pines, L (R)
Q
Quartet, A-III (PG-13)
R
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, A-III (R)
Restless Heart, A-II (no rating)
S
Scary Movie 5, O (PG-13)
Skyfall, A-III (PG-13)
Something Borrowed, L (PG-13)
Star Trek Into Darkness, A-III (PG-13)
T
21 and Over, O (R)
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, A-III (PG-13)
W
Warm Bodies, A-III (PG-13)