“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.
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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.