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Film Review: Turbo Kid

on September 02, 2015, 1:00am
B+
Director
François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Cast
Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, Michael Ironside
Release Year
2015
Rating

How to make a Turbo Kid: in a blender, add mixed 1980s genre elements (preferably stale sci-fi), grindhouse chaff, BMX money shots, and the scent of Cannon or Troma films. Whip. Then add toys and souvenirs from your friends’ and grandparents’ basements. Cassette players, View-Masters, and those tacky little pens that undress ladies with ink will do.  Blend more. Add Capcom sound effects, some Power Rangers-grade costumes, and some Indiana Jones goofballs. Pulse. Throw in ample sweeteners and at least a few buckets of corn syrup blood. Take the blender outside to either a quarry or your friends’ backyard. Those’ll bring out the best in the recipe. Play electronic music in the vein of John Carpenter, while continuing to blend those prior elements for upwards of 90 minutes. Garnish with a lawn flamingo or gnome on top.

Voilà. Turbo Kid: a chunky, colorful, Salvation Army-textured kitsch-splosion.

Adapted and expanded from the short film T for Turbo, out of the ABCs of Death anthology series, Turbo Kid is the grungy, post-societal tale of The Kid (Munro Chambers). The Kid’s a forager, riding around on his bike in vast, canyon-like pits, or at least Quebec on a very gray day filling in for the future. 1997, as the film places it. He’s a loner, a rebel, a Gary Cooper/Pee-Wee Herman/Mad Max hybrid just looking to get by with clean water, scavenging for old junk.

Among the Kid’s more prized collections: a cassette player, bright base-colored costumes, and a nasty arm laser that can turn baddies into spitting red flotsam.

The Kid stumble across a one-eyed baddie’s (Michael Ironside, playing it for geeks) plan to hijack water from a starving world. He makes friends with a wily cowboy (Aaron Jeffery), and a pixie-eyed robo-gal named Apple (Laurence Leboeuf, just gnawing her way into your heart). The Kid fends off skull-faced, jock-strapped baddies, and embraces his destiny. Save the world, and release the water, or something like that. The story’s a slight outline, since Turbo Kid’s happier being a tale of texture, brightly decorated and humorously committed.

The film nails its conscientious pastiche of vintage genre farce. Protracted, hardheaded nostalgia for all things retro is the name of Turbo Kid’s game, and often it’s a winning effort. The film’s into daydreaming about the future of the past, big time, and in spite of the film’s insistent junk store veneer, Turbo Kid has some pizazz all its own. It’s a heartfelt fantasy, ladled in gore and Zelda hearts. But the funniest thing is that Turbo Kid plays more for cute than for cult sensibilities.

Turbo Kid tries so hard, and has such a twinkle in its eye, that one can’t help but smirk when looking at the crazy crud on display. As homage, it’s a spirited embrace of a specific moment in genre history. Turbo Kid full-on loves its dorky style, hybridizing the works of Peter Jackson, Spielberg, Carpenter, Verhoeven, and other camp classics. And yet François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell’s writing and directing (the trio made the original short as well) shows their clear care and enjoyment for the hodgepodge quilt being stitched.

Buzzsaw shooters. Headbands. Grody guts being strewn about. Turbo Kid knows how and when to throw kitchen sinks, and never stops. The Kid visually alluding to Mega Man and Dragonball Z as he charges his arm cannon could be taken as geeks-only referential humor, but everything’s done with such intensity, adoration, and commitment that it’s hard not to get into the spirit of things. Turbo Kid captures the wildly discordant dreams of any budding movie lover when they were 10, creating one of the funniest works of sandbox cinema made to date. Turbo Kid is here to play, and he’s loads of fun.

Parting turbo tip: The movie is in extremely limited release, but you can find it online to rent and own on Vimeo, where this was screened. Watch it with your buddies and guffaw at will. That’s the top-shelf Turbo time.

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