2016, PG-13, 102 min. Directed by Matt Hullum. Starring Alan Ritchson, Irina Voronina, Colton Dunn, Burnie Burns, Allie DeBerry, Gavin Free, Michael Jones.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 29, 2016
Austin’s Rooster Teeth Productions, best known as the creators of the long-running Red vs. Blue series, which repurposes the first-person shooter Halo video game as a uniquely weird, comic space opera, enters the feature-film realm with this sci-fi action movie, semi-satire. Backed by one of the most successful cinematic crowdfunding campaigns ever, via Indiegogo, Lazer Team is goofy good fun, especially for fans of Eighties sci-fi and those who realize that not every gag you throw at the audience is going to be a comic landmark, but instead a string of relatively low-brow yuks and the occasional moment of laugh-out-loud hilarity. (The comedy filmmaking team Broken Lizard has made a number of films in the same “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” vein.)
In an opening pre-title sequence, we’re informed that the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) was successful. The government kept it under wraps while developing a supersoldier who would one day don an E.T. tech suit imbued with the powers necessary to prevail in a coming war with less-friendly aliens. Alas, the plan goes awry when a quartet of Miltown, Texas, has-beens and misfits accidentally shoot the craft out of the sky with fireworks and divvy up the various parts of the supersuit among themselves, bickering all the way to their unplanned and frequently maddening rendezvous with destiny.
It’s no Galaxy Quest, and it sometimes lapses into early Adam Sandler territory (not necessarily a bad thing), but it more accurately recalls Weird Science, Small Soldiers, and Explorers – minus Joe Dante’s polish. What carries the film through to its effects-laden, football-field conclusion is the ensemble cast of relative unknowns, among them Gavin Free as Woody, a mullet-sporting doofus who triples his IQ (and gains a British accent) after donning the suit’s helmet; Burnie Burns as the put-upon local sheriff’s deputy, who masters the suit’s force-field-generating left arm; Michael Jones’ Zach, a hothead footballer and the new possessor of an intergalactic energy cannon for his right arm; and Colton Dunn, as a washed-up, alcoholic ex-footballer, who gets the suit’s boots, giving him the power of superspeed. Constantly quarreling over who should do what, this quartet of unlikely heroes must overcome their (seriously) petty squabbles and save the day on their hometown football field. (This being a Texas action comedy, there’s no shortage of pigskin to go around.) Sharply edited while ranging all over the comic map – Lazer Team has its share of groaners, to be sure – it’s a solid debut from Austin’s gaming and comedy hometown heroes.
See “Fantastic Four,” Jan. 29, for an interview with the filmmakers.