First-look TV review: Netflix’s Turbo F.A.S.T.
Andrew Jones | On 24, Dec 2013
When Turbo underwhelmed earlier this year, both critically and at the box office, the notion of a spin-off animated show was one that no one really screamed out for: Turbo was a rather sluggish story full of racial stereotypes, messy plotting and way too many characters barely given any time on screen. But Netflix and DreamWorks’ deal has led to Turbo F.A.S.T. (Fast Action Stunt Team), the Internet TV company’s first original series for kids.
The show fleshes out the snail side of the characters, as Turbo (not Ryan Reynolds, nor even sounding close) and brother Chet (not Paul Giamatti, but a really good impersonator) join forces with not Samuel L. Jackson, not Snoop Dogg, not Maya Rudolph, not Ben Schwartz and Michael Patrick Bell as White Shadow, reprising his role from the film, to face foes, race, hang out and compete. The idea of competition is the basis for most of the first five episodes on Netflix, four of which are two 10-minute tales, while the first one is a 20-minute, over-stretched story.
Beyond Bell, there’s only one returning voice talent from the original movie: Ken Jeong’s horrendous Asian female nail salon owner pops up briefly, to remind us of some of Turbo’s most egregious script choices. Thankfully, though, the show settles into a specially-built city for Turbo and pals, which includes bug antics such as racing against insects and reptiles, destruction derbies, dungball-football matches and the like. The series is all about alpha males, so, while most of the time it’s centred around any character other than Turbo, it all feels samey in each snail’s goal only being to win and be the best. That’s the message of this show: work with your friends to beat everyone else.
The plots don’t really inspire much, but the writing sometimes rises above the call of duty, with some laughs and animated beats aiming for classic animated comedy shows, and sometimes even achieving moments of out and out insane brilliance. However, there’s also a lot of joke/explain joke/recite joke again so that the back three rows get it too; that kind of patronising to an audience is tedious, and incredibly odd given this is also a show where the not Sam Jackson character recreates the infamous line from Snakes on a Plane, but for kids. Characters falling down as a joke seems to be taken from The Simpsons’ rule book, but sometimes the timing is a bit too fast – compressed into 10-minute episodes, it feels off and loses its punch.
Stylistically, Turbo F.A.S.T. is odd. It has a loud, colourful feel of an anime, with the kinetic energy one expects from a Saturday morning cartoon. The designs are hyper-versions of the CG creations, and look very East-meets-West. While the animation is fine, nothing ever leaps out as stunning.
Should you watch Turbo F.A.S.T. with your kids on Netflix? Overall, there’s nothing harmful in it and it’s easily superior to the feature film, but the show is a bit of a hollow shell with no meaty snail interior.