From their live-action shorts to their award-winning animated shows, Rooster Teeth has managed to provide audiences with quality content for over a decade. Best known for creating the machinima web-series Red vs. Blue, Rooster Teeth broke crowd-funding records in 2014 when they raised more than $2.6 million on IndieGoGo for their first feature-length film, Lazer Team. After numerous teasers and behind-the-scenes videos of the production, the film has finally made its way to theaters.
Directed by Rooster Teeth’s CEO Matt Hullum, Lazer Team begins with a friendly extraterrestrial race known as the Antareans warning the Earth of an impending alien invasion. Heeding the words of their new alien allies, the United States government secretly spends decades training one man, Adam (Alan Ritchson), to be the Champion of Earth. As the date of the invasion quickly approaches, the Antareans send down a power suit for Adam to battle the invaders. However, the suit never makes it to Adam, and is instead discovered by four small town losers in Milford, TX. As they become genetically bound to individual pieces of the suit, Hagan (Burnie Burns), Zach (Michael Jones), Herman (Colton Dunn) and Woody (Gavin Free), must learn to work together as “Lazer Team” to save the planet from annihilation.
There’s so much to appreciate about Lazer Team, but it’s best to know up-front that the movie takes its time to get going. Some of the jokes and sight-gags don’t really land in the first 20 or so minutes of the film, and while most of that time is spent introducing the characters and highlighting just how incompetent they are, it feels like a wasted opportunity. There are a few early moments when the film comes to a halt to over explain a joke or repeat a physical gag, and it’s during these initial scenes that Lazer Team is at its weakest.
Though uneven at first, the movie finds its footing when the power-suit comes into play. Like in any goofy sci-fi comedy, the protagonists are as curious as they are stupid, and it’s when the four members of the team decide to put on their chosen piece of the suit that we get some of the first real laugh-out-loud moments of Lazer Team. After a brief but really funny bit of body horror, the team is finally dragged away by the military, who are none too pleased with the fact that the pieces of the suit are now permanently attached to four idiots. From then on we’re treated with a series of great training segments, each of which highlights the powers of the suit and the total lack of proficiency of the wearer. Free, who wears the intelligence-enhancing helmet, steals every scene he’s in during this segment of the film with his panicked reactions to the new and very “revealing” settings on the power helmet.
As the humor starts to consistently deliver, the film begins to showcase some incredibly well-executed action set-pieces. An entertaining brawl within a gaudy-looking cabin is later out-done by a wonderfully edited battle within the confines of a high school. It’s during these specific scenes that we become aware of the talent behind the camera, and thanks to David James Ward’s editing and Phillip Roy’s cinematography, Lazer Team manages to overcome its relatively low-budget visual effects.
What Lazer Team also does well is circumventing expectations in regard to certain characters. Although we’re initially led to believe that Hagan’s daughter, Mindy (Alexandria DeBerry), is just a stereotypical ditz, she actually displays far more competence than most of the characters in the film, and even gets to have a really funny action scene. The same can be said for Ritchson’s Adam. His exasperation at having to train the members of Lazer Team is very much earned, and although introduced as the alpha-male hero character of the piece, he experiences the most character growth throughout the film. Ritchson also garners a fair amount of laughs with his dry, sarcastic remarks, soundly proving that he’s more than capable of being just as funny as the film’s four leads.
With Lazer Team, Rooster Teeth has soundly proven that they’re more than capable of making a feature-length film that’s funnier than most theatrically released comedies. In many ways the film feels like a culmination of everything that Rooster Teeth has managed to accomplish since debuting their first episode of Red vs. Blue all the way back in 2003. Anyone with an appreciation for satirical, low-budget sci-fi comedies with a lot of heart and psychically-linked mental hand jobs will definitely appreciate what Lazer Team is offering.
Lazer Team is now playing in select theaters and will be available on YouTube Red in early February.