Though it didn’t win any races against Monsters University and Despicable Me 2, most critics agreed that Turbo was a likable enough match for its target demographic of undemanding youngsters (see guest reviewer Kyle Brassil’s review for elaboration). Following the story of an ordinary garden snail whose dream to become the fastest snail in the world miraculously comes true, Turbo also proved to be a fine match for Jackman’s scoring sensibilities, as he has managed to craft a fun and fitting work that competently blends traditional, orchestral elements with modern, electronic beats.
Jackman employs two main identities for Theo aka Turbo, the film’s titular snail. The first, a charming and versatile theme heard in "Another Day at the Plant" is immediately likeable on piano, warm strings, and strumming guitar. When handled with brass and full orchestra it becomes sweeping and inspiring, as in the fantastic cue "Arrival at Indianapolis", "Tuck and Roll", and "And It Looks Like the Winner Is...". While much of Jackman’s work on action films makes for great listening, it takes a cue like "Arrival at Indianapolis" to showcase just how much of an immense talent he really is.
The other identity for the heroic snail is more contemporary, denoted most commonly by bursts of rapidly repeating strings to the tempo of X-Men: First Class. The first heavily electronic rendition of the theme appears in "Indy 500", sporting a techno edge that works surprisingly well with some impressive brass work, a feature that I've come to expect from Jackman’s scores since First Class. "Supersnail" even has the theme interacting with dubstep elements, no doubt inspired by the composer’s collaboration with Skrillex on Wreck-It Ralph. It also appears briefly in "Snail vs. Mower" and "Mollusk Upgrade" but look to "Turbo" for the fullest rendition of the theme, with those repeating strings starting up at 1:12. Bold and fast-paced, it’s exactly what I’d expect Jackman to bring to the table for this concept.
Another great theme, this one for the Starlight Plaza Snail crew, is introduced midway through "Meet the Competition". Cool and catchy, it becomes an interesting hybrid between funk and Morricone western for the gang’s introduction in "Those Guys Are Awesome". Strong electric bass, electric guitar, and the ever-soulful Hammond Organ provide the funk elements (with some occasional DJ scratches, for good measure), while electric guitar, brass, and even Morricone-esque whistling provide the Western flare when the tempo is upped. The theme informs the tender "Daydreaming" for Tito’s character and recurs briefly in "Snail Up" come race time and more prominently in "Tuck and Roll" for the big finish.
The rest of the score is highlighted by the playful menace of "Crow Attack", the spirited exuberance of "And It Looks Like the Winner Is...", and a brief crescendo of orchestral and choral beauty at the end of "Daydreaming" that calls to mind, surprisingly, John Williams’ work on E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
While it has Mark Mancina’s Planes to compete against, Henry Jackman’s Turbo still proves itself admirably as one of the best animated film scores of the year. It’s effortlessly charming and, though it on rare occasions meanders into a generic, comedic tone (like that which Jackman applies to Turbo’s brother, Chet), Turbo is enjoyable from start to finish, boasting no less than three solid main themes. The album situation, though, is another story. I've chosen to review the Turbo (Original Motion Picture Score) release, available in mp3 format via Amazon and iTunes, but apparently this release is sold only in the United States. The rest of the world is forced to settle with Turbo: Music From The Motion Picture, a disappointing release that fails to balance a mere 17 minutes of highlights from Jackman’s original material with new music from Snoop Dogg (Lion?... I don’t even know) and other passable, age-inappropriate hip-hop/dance efforts. Aside from the catchy novelty of “The Snail Is Fast” by V12 and Nomadik, there’s nothing here that you’ll be dying to explore, especially at the expense of Jackman’s quality score. A Deluxe edition version of the release rectifies this by adding ten tracks of Jackman’s material to the previously meager six, but if you want to explore the fullest representation of the score I’d accept no substitute to the Turbo (Original Motion Picture Score) release, which ditches the hip-hop songs and remixes in favor of Jackman’s original work. While it may lack the inventiveness of his score for Wreck-It Ralph, Henry Jackman’s Turbo is in all other respects an entertaining listen with more intelligence than the brief highlights on the Music From The Motion Picture release betray.