At its heart, Turbo is a movie about dreams and dreamers.
Theo is a snail who dreams of racing…obviously his fellow snails generally find him absurdly ridiculous and are less than supportive. Racing isn’t exactly in a snail’s nature, except that Theo insists it is part of his. So he does everything he can (works to become faster, studies racing, etc.) in faith that one day, somehow, he will be able to race. Fortunately, there is an accident that imbibes him with turbo power and he does, in fact, become supernaturally gifted with speed.
The movie is laced with tension between people (and snails) who have accepted the status quo, and the dreamers who challenge that status quo. And for every dreamer, there is someone who loves them so much they are trying to keep them from being hurt and disappointed when those dreams don’t work out. The struggles and tensions in Turbo will, perhaps, be all the more palatable for those of us who are older and have a lost a little of that optimism that we can simply “be whatever we want to be;” those of us who will truly feel the irony of the snail who said, with monotonous resignation and bitterness in his voice, “And so begins another wonderful week at the plant.”
While Theo’s brother is telling him,” the sooner you accept the dull, miserable reality of your existence, the happier you’ll be,” he’s hearing his racing hero say, “No dream is too big and no dreamer is too small.” While Angelo is telling his brother Tito that “not every dream is meant to come true” and the little luck they had that day was “good enough”, Tito is dreaming of what could happen, fully convinced that “this snail crawled into our lives for a reason.”
How are these tensions resolved? The dreamers win. The “realists” come around and find hope and optimism and joy—not, perhaps, in dreams and possibilities exactly, but in the reality that those dreams have become.
What I find most interesting though is how those dreamers win. In our American, self-help culture, you might expect that the dreamers would accomplish their dreams through hard work, discipline and maybe skill. We do, after all, love to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. We love the idea of the self-made man. It’s true, you see Theo working hard to improve his speed, and you see Tito working hard to find a way to generate income for the family taco stand. It’s also evident that all the hard work in the world isn’t going to close the gap between dream and reality. Theo will never be truly fast. Tito’s ideas are far, far from successful. In both cases, it takes some “extra” help, dare I say a divine encounter of some sort or other: Theo gets super-turbo-speed piped into his being, and Tito finds a turbo-charged snail who becomes famous (that’s good for taco stand publicity).
Some of us have dreams that are well within our ability to achieve. There are others of us who have dreams that are like Theo’s—so far beyond our ability they seem laughable. How do you know when they are just “pipe” dreams, or something that you really were “made” to do? And how do you face the disappointing reality when your dreams are truly beyond your grasp? Believe it or not, I think we Turbo points to the answers without even realizing it.
There’s no mention of God in the movie, but there is a sense of divine intervention or just crazy cosmic good luck…in either case, they had outside help. As Christians, however, who believe in a Creator who loves us and has a plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11) and who is sovereign over all things, we have hope for when things are beyond our grasp, just as we have hope that the dreams implanted in our heart aren’t just some cruel joke. A cursory review of some of the more well-known stories in scripture will remind you of just how replete the Bible is with stories of dreamers who required divine help to accomplish their dreams. Abraham and Sarah wanted a child, but were well-past child-bearing years. Moses’ mother dreamed of seeing her baby grow up, when all the babies were ordered to be killed. Joseph had a dream of his brothers bowing down to him while he had a position of authority, but not only was he the youngest, he was sold into slavery and imprisoned. The Israelites dreamed of being free from Egyptian rule, but couldn’t beat their oppressors. You get the idea…and don’t even get me started on all the people who dreamed of being healed and whole in the New Testament that Jesus miraculously healed!
In every case, no matter how hard the people may have tried, their dreams required more. And in every case, God intervened and gave them the help they needed. Not only that, but in the New Testament, we have the promise of the Holy Spirit, the Helper. Jesus said that His followers would do even greater things than He did, because of the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives. That really is like being a snail with turbo powers.
So here’s the tension we live with: we need to be grateful and contented with our current realities, all the while praying and asking God to help us fulfill the dreams He’s given us. We need to yearn for the “more” in our lives, and yet remain thankful for the present. (God really doesn’t like it when we grumble and complain – see Psalm 78!). It’s a difficult balance. If we simply accept our present reality, we are tempted to become negative and bitter that “this is all there is.” That’s why God was so angry with the Israelites. He had performed all these miracles for them. They should have realized that He was capable of changing their present realities in an instant. They should have had hope for what the future would bring.
On the other hand, if we go to the other extreme and believe our dreams must come true (without being patient with God’s timing), we can end up compromising (see Abraham and Sarah – and how they ended up with Ishmael – it was a mess!), or as Tito did, following one bad idea after another, totally detached from reality. God wants us to trust in HIM, not in our own understanding. He wants us to look to HIM for help, to HIM to accomplish the impossible, to HIM to make our dreams come true.
Do you have dreams that seem impossible? Does reality seem overwhelming enough to make you bitter? Recognize that nothing is impossible for God, and He is in business of making you and me into the people He created us to be, and helping us do the things He created us to do. Not so that we are made much of, but so that HE is made much of. If this was about our glory, then He would have made it possible for us to do the things we dream of. But, since it’s not about our glory, since it’s about HIS glory, He instills in us the desire for things that are so far beyond our capability that we need Him, and that He gets all the praise and glory for when they happen.
So be like Theo: dream away; make the most of today; be grateful while you wait, and recognize that your dreams will probably need some divine help, but that’s OK. In fact, that’s a good thing!
Questions for Discussion:
- Have you ever had dreams that were so big they required divine help?
- Do you tend to be a realist or a dreamer?
- Who did you relate to most in the movie? Why?
- If you’re a realist, how do you respond to the dreamers? If you’re a dreamer, how do you respond to the realists?
- Have you ever felt that, like Turbo, you had something supernatural happen to you which enabled you to accomplish your dreams? Explain.
- How do you feel about God’s promise that with the Holy Spirit we can accomplish even greater things than Jesus did?
- Do you think some dreams are better than others? Why?
- Do you think God wants to help every dream come true? Why or why not?
A final caveat: I just want to be clear about this—when we talk about dreams, it’s very easy to hear that “God is here to make my dreams come true.” This is not the case. He is not a magic genie, at our beck and call, required to do our bidding. We are here for God, not the other way around. Some of our dreams are merely self-serving and therefore unworthy or our efforts, much less God’s divine attention. Other dreams, however, are literally God-given, and as such are worth our entire life’s pursuit, as well as God’s assistance. These dreams honor and exalt the name and the character of God, often by exalting the name and character of those who are in His service, who represent Him by bearing His name. Even God-given dreams can become tainted with our own selfish motives. We need to continually and humbly submit all of our heart’s desires to the Lord and ask Him to refine them. God may have promised us “turbo power” for our dreams, but far more important than us getting that turbo power is that we have the right dreams and ambitions in the first place.
Click here to read a collection of quotes from Turbo.
By Stacey Tuttle