By Chris Campo
Rooster Teeth is one hell of a success story. In case you don't know, Rooster Teeth is a small production company that specializes in web based content. They're responsible for the now-televised and long running web series Red vs Blue, as well as many other well respected projects on both Youtube and their website. Rooster Teeth's latest effort, a sci-fi comedy with a $2.5 million budget, only furthers their success as it's a hell of a watch. It measures its manhood to that of a modern superhero flick and just about nails it, in its own small budget, cheesy way.
Lazer Team starts decades ago, where the United States government recives a signal from a friendly alien race telling them an aggressive race of aliens known as the Worg are on a mission to destory any weak planets. The friendly aliens promise that a suit of un-imaginable power will arrive in 30 years. The suit is designed to one man, Adam (Alan Ritchson), who is trained from birth to be the "Champion of Earth". Meanwhile, four idiots accidentally intercept the alien suit and each put on a piece of the armour Forced to train to defeat the evil Worg, the self-dubbed "Lazer Team" must save the world, without killing each other... somehow.
Lazer Team is undeniably Rooster Teeth. The style is expectedly ridiculous, silly and will not be for everyone. As I am a Rooster Teeth fan, I think I got more out of the film than the average movie-goer, but it doesn't alienate non-Rooster Teeth fans. There's next to no inside jokes, only a few subtle references. An example of this is the football game in the beginning of the film. The game is between teams with red jerseys and blue jerseys, a fun reference to Red vs. Blue. That's how subtle the references are here.
The titular heros all are suprisingly fantastic. There's Hagen (Burnie Burns), an awful cop and loving father. Zach (Michael Jones), a hot shot football player who's main goal in life is to sleep with Hagen's daughter, Mindy (Alexandria DeBerry). Woody (Gavin Free), a mentally handicapped waterboy that can't find his way. And Herman (Colton Dunn), a former football star turned drunk after Hagen ruined his career. This cast of idiots are amazing, playing off each other to perfection. They're not necessarily great actors, but their wit, delivery and self-awareness shine. The standouts are Jones and Dunn. Colton Dunn and Alan Ritchson are not Rooster Teeth employees, yet they feel so natural around the gang. They feel like they've been friends with the cast for as many years as everyone else.
The film throws so much comedy at the screen at once that not every joke is gold, but I was laughing consistently hard throughout. From sophomoric dick jokes to outrageous visual gags, Lazer Team attempts so many styles of humor, but the tone is so rock solid and self-aware that it never feels forced or unnatural. The tone is remarkably cheesy. Like, so cheesy that it may turn some people off. Think of the cheese in a old Star Trek episode, but cranked up to 100 and done intentionally. Yeah, it's that cheesy. But both the cast and crew know exactly what they're doing, and this gives the film a charm that just isn't found in the big blockbusters. It's refreshing silly and actually quite smart.
To balance the cheese, there are a few legitimately effective scenes of drama. For example, Alan Ritchson is a very serious character. He was raised to do one thing and it's taken from him. It's quite tragic, and his slow steps towards appreciating the Lazer Team is subtle and, honestly, hartwarming. The payoff to his character is definitely a highlight of the film. The drama between some members of the team is also handled well. While the hatred that Hagen has towards Zach is mostly played for jokes, Hagen's incident that costed Herman his career is a big and effective emotional push the film reallt needed towards its finale. There's also a subtle scene in the beginning where Woody gets bullied by military and it's sad as Hagen begs for his mercy because he's mentally handicapped, which makes him becoming a super genius so much more satisfying.
The action scenes are all pretty clever and well staged, my favorite being a standout sequence in a hospital where they have to stealthily sneak out of containment. There's also a genuinely trilling sequence that takes place at a high school. It's probably the most seriously handled action scene and its production value floored me. Then there's the final battle. It is played for laughs, but it's quite the crowd pleaser and I laughed throughout the entire sequence. There's a remarkable visual gag referencing a classic video game that made me laugh uncontrollably.
Lazer Team is not a perfect movie, by any stretch of the imagination. Most of the CGI is outstanding, but there's one scene involving a group of aliens that have close up shots and they, admittedly, look bad. They look like a last-gen video game cutscene. The big bad villian of the movie looks pretty odd, also. Its design is almost half cat-half Orc from Lord of the Rings. It looked like an old power ranger villian. I honestly couldn't tell if it was practical make-up or CGI. Also, the editing during action is noticeably amature, but its not a huge problem. It has quick cuts and can get a bit jittery, especially in a car chase sequence early on that didn't impress me that much on a technical scale.
To sum up, Rooster Teeth's first attempt at a feature film is a lovingly crafted and hilarious film. You may enjoy it more if you're familiar with the style of Rooster Teeth, but it's definitely a hell of a watch and it almost has a guaranteed cult classic status. Lazer Team... Game on.