Have you ever wondered how the comic book artists who invented Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles managed to sell their ideas to a big TV network? Even if the thought had never crossed your mind, now that you’ve read this sentence you have got to be a little bit curious about it?
Luckily, writer-director Vin Nucatola (“Jeep Date”, “Stuck”) has the answer for us in a comedic short film that, despite its parodying intent, might as well be the truth.
Italian Turtles (a perfect title for a film that is all about the incongruity of TMNT’s plot) takes us directly into the meeting room with artists Kevin, Nick Piacente (“Jeep Date”, “The Soothing System”), and Peter, Chris D’Amato (“How To Make It Big”, “The House on Pumpkin Drive”), far too aware of the difficulty of selling their idea yet relying entirely on it for their career to continue.
With the stakes in place, the pitch begins once the three network executives enter: big boss John, Timothy J. Cox (“Dirty Books”, “Total Performance”) and his two minions Karl, Bj Gruber (“The Queens Project”, “Wokeman: On Race”) and Pat, Janel Koloski (“The Newcomer”, “Wokeman: On Race”).
As expected, the dialogue between all five characters take gradually more outlandish turns as Kevin & Peter desperately try to both explain the plot and make it attractive to their confused audience.
The comedy unfortunately soon runs out of steam, probably because of how predictable it is. We all already know, after all, how weird the plot of TMNT is. The nine minutes of runtime, despite being objectively short, feels a bit too long because of it, but the film’s other qualities mitigate this shortcoming.
Despite the short runtime, the majority of which is dedicated to the pitch, all five characters are unique and compelling in part thanks to the great actors playing them. And Italian Turtles also boasts a fully-realized late 80s look that gives the film a lot of charm.
This esthetic aspect is a really nice bonus: the set (singular as we never leave the meeting room) and costumes manage to recreate a faithful 80s look while adding touches of humor – the balance between ridiculous wigs and a realistic setting seems impossible to maintain yet is wonderfully achieved here.
On top of this, an aesthetically-pleasing filter makes the film looks to be taken right out of an old VHS tape, plunging us further into an atmosphere prone to humor and nostalgia.
Italian Turtles does not entirely deliver on its initial promise – it does show the pitch for TMNT, but ironically makes us realize that it is never as funny as when we imagine it – but its charm fortunately fills in for what is lacking. In a way, this is a good picture of how TMNT must have felt like for the real network executives: ridiculous and charming all at once.