The Fast & Furious franchise is powered by more than nitrous oxide. Its diverse cast of characters makes it a demographic-friendly way to draw as big a crowd as possible.
And if the millions of tickets sold so far are any indication, it’s working.
The same may hold true for Turbo, the new animated film opening this week. Turbo, starring the voice of Ryan Reynolds as a snail who gains super speed after a run-in with nitrous oxide (NOS), features a group of Hispanic characters as well as comic sidekicks of color (Snoop Lion, Samuel L. Jackson, Ken Jeong).
Michael Pena voices Tito, a lovable guy who traffics in Ralph Kramden-esque schemes to promote his brother’s taco stand. Tito is far from perfect–he’s pudgy and too ambitious for his own good. His amiable nature and determination makes him a most appealing character all the same.
The film treats Tito with dignity without deifying him, and the same is true of his minority neighbors.
In a way, the movie’s inclusive casting choices coincide with its unabashedly American concept–dream big. Lil’ Turbo is sure he’ll be a racing legend some day–even though he moves at a literal snail’s pace. Tito knows his brother makes the tastiest tacos around. All he needs to do is market his brother’s gift properly and they’ll be famous.
The film reminds us that dreams matter, and even though the odds are stacked impossibly high for both Turbo and Tito neither should give up. The movie also tells us that dreams can be dangerous, a lesson young Turbo learns the hard way.
Plenty of children’s films bombard young viewers with anti-capitalist messages, but Turbo focuses on the American dream in a way that will leave conservative parents pleasantly surprised.