The great thing about 80’s era films is that you didn’t need to be alive during that time to fully appreciate them. Films like The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and The Goonies transcend generations and continue to be relatable even today. Then there were films like Mad Max, Flash Gordon, and Terminator that reawakened the hero inside of us. Turbo Kid has the unique honor of embodying an entire decade, soundtrack and all.
Personally, I’ve grown tired of all the recent slew of Young Adult-inspired dystopian films, where all of the world’s most important decisions come from a teenager who hasn’t quite mastered their post-puberty hormones. Instead, Turbo Kid gives us a hero we can relate to. He survives day to day by scavenging whatever he can find and exchanging it for the most precious and scarce of resources: water. Like a child, he only does this to survive and for the occasional issue of his favorite comic book, Turbo Rider. He spends his days wandering the waste and mapping the areas he can’t enter, playing it safe in almost every aspect of his life. The greatest adventures he takes part in are the ones he takes vicariously through his comic book. That is, until he becomes the very hero he has only come to know in fictionalized stories.
First time writer/director trio François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell don’t just pay homage to 80’s films, but instead create a love child made of several elements from prolific 80’s films. There is the youthful sense of adventure and curiosity we see through the Kid and Apple’s journey around the acid rain-ravaged terrain. Apple’s childlike, unbridled optimism and overwhelming joy to every new thing she experiences is a beacon of levity for a film that could easily come off as dark. The story emulates that of Mad Max‘s pretty closely. The Kid, like Max, is a hero born out of necessity and circumstance. This is his origin story. Rather than taking the somber route of most post-apocalypse road warriors, Turbo Kid sticks with their light touch and has The Kid become a younger version of his favorite comic book hero in a grim world where true heroes are all but extinct.
The amalgam nostalgic elements are in full swing. The vibrant colors and youthful vigor channel something very comic book-esque. The colors pop, especially on the costume design when set against the dismal, leadened terrain. It is set as a reminder that even though these characters live in the world, they aren’t quite part of it. Or at least haven’t fallen prey to the depression it breeds. One of the easiest features to recognize in any 80’s film is the heavy use of layered synth for the scoring, and this film exploits that bit of nostalgia gloriously. The film’s score plays such a major part in creating a very specific aesthetic that without it, the film itself would feel like a different creature entirely.
A great part of the energy of the film comes not only from the music, but also from the lively performances of the cast. You don’t mind that the characters themselves are archetypes because they are portrayed so well. Especially when it comes to our hero, played by Munro Chambers, and his plucky sidekick, played by Laurence Leboeuf. Together, their chemistry was the perfect contrast and combination of charm that made us believe that love was possible even in a wasteland. Leboeuf was especially splendid with all the subtlety she put into her character, mannerisms and all. When her character is truly revealed, you are able to look back and see all the clues if you haven’t already figured it out by then.
With an ‘homage’, you always risk the possibility of going too far and edging into ‘parody’ territory. Turbo Kid takes this vehicle as fast and as far as it can go, but it is always careful to stay on the clear coarse set before it. With its headlights blazing, great tunes blasting from the speakers, and a fantastic group of drivers at the helm, Turbo Kid will never bust before reaching its destination.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★ (8/10 stars)
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