There can be a thin line between homage and pandering. Turbo Kid, which lands with a resounding thud on the wrong side of that line, is a reverse engineered attempt at 80s nostalgia. With its bright Reagan era palette, thinly veiled Nintendo Power Glove, and earnest post-apocalyptic cheese but soft-pedaled BMX bike aesthetic, it’s meant to recall movies like Megaforce, Metalstorm, Ice Pirates, and Spacehunter. If you can name the subtitles of any of those movies, Turbo Kid thinks it’s for you!
But reverse engineered nostalgia requires a deft touch that eludes this group of filmmakers, who have all the energy and know-how of a crowdsourced movie crew. Without that touch, you’re liable to end up being as bad as your source material, and all the more cringe-worthy for aping it. It takes a Robert Rodriguez to craft a Planet Terror. For some reason, Turbo Kid is chock full of tone-deaf splatter humor. I’ve seen my share of cheesy 80s post-apocalyptic movies shot in rock quarries. I don’t remember any of them being showered in blood and viscera. Turbo Kid eventually has to whip out an umbrella against it all.
Michael Ironsides, looking more like someone’s grandfather than Michael Ironsides, seems to have lost his appetite for chewing scenery, which results in a curiously laidback villain. He’ll get to you when he gets to you. The highlight of this weirdly cloying enterprise is the wide-eyed Laurence Leboeuf as the hero’s love interest slash sidekick. Leboeuf brings almost too much energy to every scene, playing her role like a souped-up Cheri Oteri crossed with a blissed out Jodie Foster. The movie can barely contain her.
Turbo Kid is available for video on demand.