December 25, 2013

‘Turbo FAST’: A speedy snail and his pals move to the small screen

The early episodes of Netflix’s “Turbo FAST” look great, with deep, saturated colors, natural movement and a relatively high level of detail.

“Turbo,” the DreamWorks Animation feature film about a snail who wins the Indianapolis 500, was a moderately successful effort to distill the spirit of America’s commercialized sports culture into a rousing children’s movie. “Turbo FAST” places the film’s characters in a children’s television show – a new Netflix series, to be exact – and it’s like a homecoming: the sports clichés winging back to where they were born.

The show picks up after Turbo, a genetically modified snail, has enjoyed his Indy victory and comes home to discover that his crew of fellow supercharged snails has built a track where he can race. This gives the series its framing device, with Turbo facing off against a menacing beetle in the first of five episodes posted this week. (Future episodes will go up weekly, in a departure from Netflix’s usual all-at-once practice.)

Almost everything about the show is exactly what you’d expect: the video-game racing visuals, the “Transformers”-style conversions of the snails’ shells, the jokey argot of the dialogue (“Snailed it!”) and the fixation on the sights, sounds and smells of the digestive process. (Episode 2 features a kind of Mad Max dodgeball game played by a team of dung beetles using large pellets of you-know-what.)

The snails are painted in bold primary colors, but their manner of speaking and their accessories signal which is the black snail, the Hispanic snail and the sexy snail.

That said, “Turbo FAST” has its virtues. The storytelling is synthetic but intelligible, the snail characters formulaic but ever so slightly endearing. And the move from the film’s generic 3-D animation to the series’ 2-D is an improvement – the early episodes look great, with deep, saturated colors, natural movement and a relatively high level of detail.

Like the New York Yankees, Netflix isn’t afraid to spend money in the cause of victory.

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