Back in 2008, Comedy Central launched THE LEGEND OF NEIL online. Quickly, it went viral, and it became an internet sensation with over 10 million views. If you never heard of it and were hoping for the chance to explore it further, there will never be a better opportunity than this DVD release by Flatiron Film Company.
(Warning: the following review will contain spoilers for the purposes of discussing plot and characters. If you’re the kind of happy reader who prefers living your life sheltered from all that is good and noble, then feel free to skip down to the last two paragraphs. Otherwise, buckle up and read on.)
Neil (played by Tony Janning) is your typical slacker. He works at the family-run gas station, but, in his free time, he’s looked on that original Nintendo staple, “The Legend of Zelda.” While engaging in some deviant behavior while ensconced in the game, Neil is unwittingly sucked into the world of Hyrule. Reluctantly, he accepts the guidance and advice of Old Man (Mike Rose) and, later, his twin Ooooold Man (also Rose) to rescue the Princess Zelda (Angie Hill). Along the way, he’ll make plenty of friends and enemies, reluctantly rising to challenge the evil lord Ganon (Scott Chernoff) and his minion of questionable sexuality, Wizrobe (Eric Acosta).
For my tastes, THE LEGEND OF NEIL is a delight. It’s an inspired yet mildly sardonic look into one merry world that’s not too awfully far away from our own. The characters are all a bit nutty, shackled with their own quirks and misgivings, be it Neil wanting to prove himself while still having a beer or Old Man restlessly prattling on with his endless asides and quips about Neil’s inattentiveness. Throw in some curiously Gestapo-sounding skeletons, trash-talking Centaurs, a dragon with an inferiority complex, and stone giants who’d rather be playing football than defending their realm and you have nothing short of a madcap exercise in insanity.
NEIL ran for three seasons, and all are included here. Season 1 (about 30 minutes) pretty much deals with establishing the world and characters, introducing us to Neil and his quest. Season 2 (60 minutes) picks up where audiences were left with a modest cliffhanger, with the stakes (and production budget!) raised. Season 3 (80 minutes) takes us beyond and back into the world of Hyrule as Neil steps back into the land of mortals, realizes he’s missed his calling, and gladly goes back. All in all, it’s a modest investment of time that reaps plenty of rewards for the patient viewer. Creators Sandeep Parikh and Tony Janning along with their talented cast pack more laughs into this low-budget fantasy than you can shake a stick (or wooden sword) at.
Watch closely, and you’ll see that the show is almost stolen by fandom superstar Felicia Day. As a tiny firefly princess with a big appetite for knocking her Pixie boots, she’s part Tinkerbell, part registered sex offender whose almost Orwellian about her OCD urge to get her private parts maximum exposure.
If there’s any cause for concern here it would be that, by the third season, Neil’s exploits had grown so large and so aggressive that the show began parodying almost every possible movie in sight. Jabs at STAR WARS, HARRY POTTER, ROCKY, GHOST, and even YOU GOT SERVED fly by a mile a minute. Still, most of them are effective, and, based on the budget, they were definitely affordable.
I’ve been watching films and videos for over four decades, and, for almost as long, I’ve been doing like most do. I’ve been talking them over, recommending them to friends and family, loving them and hating them, despising them and devouring them … but I’ve rarely seen as much heart, wit, and whimsy poured into what was obviously a labor-of-love for those who did it. Clearly, NEIL was made by fans of film FOR fans of film, and it shows. If there are 100 gags in here, 75 of them work wonderfully, 20 work adequately, and 5 fall a bit short. That’s a pretty solid ratio for this low-budget laugher, and it deserves to be discovered by an audience beyond the internet. With this collection, you have the chance. Enjoy!
THE LEGEND OF NEIL is produced by Effing Funny, Flatiron Film Company, and Comedy Central. DVD distribution is being handled by New Video. As this was originally a web series, the quality of the program in Season 1 was decidedly low (I’ve read that the pilot ep shot for less than $500); but it improves greatly in Seasons 2 and 3. Image quality is a bit grainy at times (Season 1), though it gets much better. Sound quality is pretty solid (again, much improvements obviously in Seasons 2 and 3), but there were a few sequences that were either poorly miked or re-recorded in post as there’s a noticeable tininess to it. Overall, image and sound quality is great, not perfect. The two-disc set is LOADED with special features, including multiple commentary tracks, a music video, webisodes, gag reels, photo galleries, behind-the-scenes shorts, featurette on how to make your own web program, and (seriously) much, much more. There’s even a massive Easter Egg identified as an Easter Egg, and, thankfully, you don’t have to search to find it.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Look, people: it’s comedy, and, while comedy is an acquired taste, it can also be as broad and bawdy as any creative mind can take you. That said, Sandeep Parikh and Tony Janning throw everything (and the kitchen sink) at the wall in THE LEGEND OF NEIL, and, with great charm and keen eyes, they make most of it work and work winningly. This won’t be for everyone, but those who do “get it” will “get it” for years, they’ll be glad they “got it,” and they’ll no doubt be passing out or recommending this two-disc collection on to friends for years to come. It ain’t all kid-friendly (there’s a LOT of sexually suggestive material in here), but my guess is most kids will definitely “get it.”
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at New Video provided me with a DVD screener copy of THE LEGEND OF NEIL for the expressed purposes of completing this review. May God have mercy on their souls!