Lazer Team Review [Fantastic Fest 2015]
I’m going to dub Rooster Teeth’s Lazer Team the Anti-Pixels. Their plots are so eerily similar, but I guess that can be said about most of these “unlikely hero” arcs in science fiction. A group of friends stumble upon alien weaponry, training montages ensue, there’s an inner struggle that keeps the team at odds, an alien challenger comes to Earth for a universal pink-slip competition, and the team finally comes together in a moment of emotional triumph. The only difference? Lazer Team doesn’t totally suck like Pixels. In fact, it’s rather funny – but what else would you expect from Rooster Teeth? You’ve been watching these guys make a mockery of Halo for years, now watch them take aim at the sci-fi genre like only their brash immaturity could imagine.
So who is the Lazer Team? Just your run-of-the-mill chuckleheads who have no business saving the world. There’s Hagan (Burnie Burns), a local cop haunted by his choke-worthy past, Zach (Michael Jones), the hot-shot football star without a single brain cell, Herman (Colton Dunn), a washed-up football star whose injury spelled tragedy, and Woody (Gavin Free), the town dunce.
With absolutely nothing in common, these four unlikely heroes are forced to band together when they accidentally intercept an alien weapon meant for a military-bred super solider (Alan Ritchson). But when the suit fits itself to its new human hosts, once each moron puts a separate part of the armor on, the military has no choice but to train these bumbling nobodies to be lethal, alien-killing badasses. In other words – Earth is doomed.
I’m not going to say Rooster Teeth have matured in their creative process, but I will say Lazer Team is more than just latex wedgie-fixing and celebratory air-humping. Writers Burnie Burns, Chris Demarais, and Joshua Flanagan birth characters we actually want to see succeed despite their narcissistic attitudes, complacent laziness, and utter buffoonery. The cast is always aiming for laughs first and foremost, but we’re also invested in their general growth throughout Earth’s battle for survival. Sure, performances play a huge part in this process, but someone has to flesh out the characters before they’re brought to life on screen.
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Bringing in Alan Ritchson to play the straight-edge solider boy was a marvelous choice, especially with such goofball comedians surrounding him. Ritchson’s zen-like focus allows him to never break in any given moment, perfectly complimenting Michael Jones’ frat-boy-wannabe one-liners. Alternatively, Burns achieves laughs through his everyman nobility, finding comedy simply by reacting to Jones’ constant barraged of overly-sexualized stupidity, but he’s also the character we find ourselves relating to the most.
Then there’s Colton Dunn and Gavin Free, one of which is a no-good drunk who pukes every time he runs too fast, while the other gains super intelligence that makes him start speaking in a British accent (because that’s how regular Woody thought all smart people talked). Everyone has their charms, from blissful irreverence to mongoloid aggression, but this chemically-bonded team actually does work together quite well, despite what their superior officers might say.
Effects wise, Rooster Teeth show why this was an IndieGoGo effort, even though it hastily became the most successful IndieGoGo projects to date (tripling an already hefty ask of 650K). According to director Matt Hullum, the extra budget was used to secure stars like Ritchson and Alexandria DeBerry in an attempt to increase mainstream appeal, and that monetary designation can be felt at times.
You could say that Lazer Team has an old-school look about it, but that really just means holographic aliens and their buzzing spacecrafts could have used a little more detailing for on-screen beautification. In addition, there are some pretty obvious green screen backdrops that stick out a little too easily, along with completely animated car segments that could have easily been grabbed with a helicopter view – but that costs way more money. It certainly doesn’t detract from the picture, and the laser cannon effects flash like a Mega Man proton blast, but a few visual inadequacies remind us that even the most powerful YouTube sensations still can’t get the attention of big-budget studios.
Here’s my final pitch: if you want to see the greatest cinematic usage of the jerk-off hand motion (to date), watch Lazer Team. It’s a bit of satirical sci-fi comedy that only the guys at Rooster Teeth can dream up, given a strong love for egregious dick jokes and non-stop references to Independence Day. One minute you’re watching Herman launch a firework dubbed Mama Gigante, the next you’re learning about how the four alien weapons are based off Greek mythology – in other words, there’s something for everyone! A movie that can deliver crass humor while expressing signs of heightened intelligence is able to prove it’s got more to say, and Lazer Team speaks with authority on both points.
Dark Matter blasters, mental handjobs, Red vs. Blue references, Neil deGrasse Tyson – what else could you ask for in a phaser-shooting, intergalactic laugh-riot?
There's a reason why Rooster Teeth easily tripled their IndieGoGo asking price, and that's because people knew they'd create a witty sci-fi satire with intergalactic dick jokes "sprinkled" in - and the people were right.