TV review: ‘Turbo: F.A.S.T.’ breaks out of its shell on Netflix

“Turbo,” the racing-snails movie from this summer, is already a cartoon series, “Turbo: F.A.S.T.,” suggesting that such an eventuality was in the cards from the beginning (or somewhere near it). That other DreamWorks-made cartoons — including “The Penguins of Madagascar,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “Monsters vs. Aliens,” all on Nickelodeon — have taken the same route, suggests that, more than an eventuality, it was an inevitability.

One difference is that it is being released by Netflix, the streamcaster’s first kids’ show and ergo a historic moment. And unlike the other series mentioned above, it has been squashed from its theatrical three dimensions more or less into old-fashioned 2-D, with bright, flat colors, thick outlines and relatively minimal shading or lighting effects. The characters look hand-drawn, whatever that technically means these days, though the world they inhabit also borrows conventions from video games — it’s about racing, and it’s 2013, so how could it not? — along with cinematic split-screen and slow-motion effects. And some shots are viewed as if through a convex lens, which feels new to me.

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The series — likable with its mix of Hot Wheels action and comical gastropods, and surely catnip to kids — picks up from the film as if it were a sequel. Turbo (Reid Scott from “Veep,” in for the movie’s Ryan Reynolds), the snail who won the Indy 500, returns to the Starlight Plaza strip mall after his victory tour. As a gift to him and his kind, his taco-truck-driving human pal Tito (Amir Talai, who also plays the snail Skidmark) has erected a vast snail metropolis, with “a city hall, a movie theater, a skate park and one of those plastic owls to keep the birds away” out back next to the dumpster. (Snail-snatching birds were a feature of the film; one snail is snatched here, as if for old time’s sake.)

After a brief preamble in which Ken Jeong reprises his role as nail-salon proprietress Kim Ly, the humans retire and the action moves entirely to the snail city — a bit of a disappointment since the movie’s greatest charm was its recognizable Van Nuys setting and down-market, multiethnic milieu. Turbo’s fellow racing snails do retain their accents, if not their actors, though with the people gone, there remains only one female character — Burn, played by the cartoon-ubiquitous Grey Delisle-Griffin — and no one seems to know what to do with her.


“Turbo F.A.S.T.” is more of a “cartoon” cartoon than its parent film, able to do its work in 11 minutes, and easy to read, with old-fashioned musical cues and sound effects. Every story I’ve seen — three in two 23-minute episodes — involves some sort of competition and the promotion of teamwork. Where the movie was all about dreaming your dreams and thinking big and never saying die (the usual stuff), that is all taken as read here: These snails are superheroes. At the end of the first double-length episode, they give themselves a name, “Fast Action Stunt Team,” changed quickly from “Fast Action Racing Team” when the acronym proves unusable.


‘Turbo: F.A.S.T.’

Where: Netflix

When: Available starting Dec. 24

Rating: TV-7 (may include themes or elements with mild fantasy or comedic violence)


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