Before YouTube, Netflix and the world of new media we live in today, some guys sat in their apartment and made a comedy skit filmed with the game, “Halo.” Suddenly, this Austin based studio exploded with popularity, amassing 13 seasons of Red vs. Blue. It holds the record for the longest running web series ever, and the second longest running sci-fi series next to Doctor Who. Back in 2003, the first reviews for RVB were pretty harsh, the literal pull quote being “Halo meets Stripes,” which they took as a compliment, by the way. The reason I feel the need to explain this is to suggest that the Rooster Teeth brand is niche, and it’s the most popular niche on the internet, and its fanbase is insanely loyal. Among them is me, one of the 30,000+ backers for this movie on Indiegogo, turning an expected $600,000 budget into $2.4 million. That being said, this review will not be an endorsement for Lazer Team, but instead a fair assessment of its abilities to entertain a general audience.
Lazer Team is a science-fiction action comedy directed by Matt Hullum and written by Burnie Burns, the co-founders of the company. The premise is one of a potential Saturday morning cartoon, in which contact is made by an alien race in the 1970s, warning humanity that there will be conflict against the evil forces of the galaxy, and that they’ll provide a powerful armor to be worn by a chosen champion of Earth… until it arrives one night and the armor is commandeered by a group of complete idiots, played by Rooster Teeth regulars Burnie Burns, Michael Jones and Gavin Free, in addition to Colton Dunn (Parks and Recreation).
The movie proceeds to tell the story of how the four buffoons who don’t trust or like one another learn to work together for the sake of the world in some ridiculous, incompetent ways. The movie’s story is one that many will find to be to be a very familiar underdog’s tale, but it’s their brand of humor I referred to that keeps this age old story afloat. While the pacing meanders a bit, and jokes hit and miss in the movie’s first act, the good laughs that propel it forward are the off-beat ones that take film tropes and genre expectations that either are changed, or just pointed to and laughed at. General audiences may think of the kinds of gags like Phil Lord and Chris Miller produced in the Jump Street movies, but in a way that is a bit more aware of “social media” significance. Rooster Teeth fans, however, will recognize this comedy type from their live action shorts of the last few years. If you found those shorts funny, you’ll probably find this funny. It works well in this context too, but given Lazer Team’s surprising amount of action and choreography, it could have benefitted from some more dynamic cinematography for potential added humor and to better show off all the work put towards those scenes.
The performances are surprisingly good here, specifically in some moments from Colton Dunn as Herman, an ex-football star turned into a booze bag, and I find that many will be surprised by the acting abilities of Slo-Mo Guys’ Gavin Free as the especially-moronic-turned-especially-smart Woody. Given the movie’s budget, the visual effects aren’t necessarily ones that will stand out, as the sparingly used, more grandiose effects will look like an early Xbox 360 game to some that look too closely, but the best of the effects are used seamlessly in environments, lighting and especially the powers of the alien armor when used in combat by the Lazer Team.
As the movie’s plot moves forward, the final act presents a few unique, surprising ideas, given the mostly uncharted potential of science-fiction comedies. Culminating those cool ideas with the better visuals effectively makes Lazer Team a really good B movie: the kind of low budget sci-fi matinee flicks lost in time and between tentpole franchises. This is exactly what the team was going for when they began the project in the first place, but for many, the promise of a goofy matinee movie may not be enough in a world with an overabundance of possible entertainment. However, without treading too far into becoming “Rooster Teeth The Movie,” Lazer Team is most successful at pleasing fans of these personalities as a celebration of the content and the community they’ve produced for over a decade in their pocket of the entertainment industry. If you’re willing to take a chance on it, the Rooster Teeth family’s humor is unique and grapples people in a way I haven’t seen anything else achieve. Hell, they just might win you over too.
Lazer Team: 7.5/10
The movie premieres on limited screens today. You can find a theater hosting a screening of the movie near you on LazerTeamTheMovie.com and on Tugg.com