Baelin's Route (2021) Review
Five years after YouTube sensations Viva La Dirt League posted their first Epic NPC Man video, and following a Kickstarter campaign that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, Baelin's Route has finally been released - and it is a belter.
As the relentlessly cheery character of Baelin (played by Rowan Bettjeman), an honest, hard-working fisherman, comes into contact with a not-so-noble adventurer who is on a quest to rescue the young Willow (Phoenix Cross), he must become an unlikely hero and save the day.
The short starts in Honeywood, the epicentre of Epic NPC Man - a series that pokes fun at and pays tribute to the wild and crazy world of fantasy RPGs - before taking the audience to a whole host of brand new, genuinely stunning locations as the plot unravels.
What follows is an absolute blast of a film that is packed with humour, action and a surprising amount of heart. Cross is truly superb, bringing a remarkable level of sophistication to a role that could have been relatively one-dimensional.
Baelin's Route has a bit of everything for fans of the fantasy genre
The friendship that develops between Willow and Bettjeman's Baelin is delightful, with the latter displaying a marvellous range of emotions throughout - made all the more impressive by the fact his character can say nothing more than his trademark catchphrase, "Good morning. Nice day for fishing, ain't it? Huh ha!"
Penned by Alan Morrison, who also appears as the much-loved Greg the Garlic Farmer, the script manages to supply a steady stream of enjoyable gags and rewarding references for followers of the online series, but still offers plenty for those who haven't spent hours watching all 179 episodes of the show (although if you haven't, you definitely should).
Delivering exciting battle scenes choreographed by Alex Holloway - the chance to see Baelin take on a gang of orcs with just a fishing rod is enough to make this well worth a watch - while also telling an engaging, authentic story that hooks you in from scene one, Baelin's Route has a bit of everything for fans of the fantasy genre.
Executed with a relatively modest budget, this satisfying short shows the immense talent of the Viva La Dirt League team. It's about time Netflix came calling, right?