Lazer Team premiered at Fantastic Fest on 24th September.
The search for extraterrestrial life seems like a bit of a waste of time. On one hand, it would be amazing to make contact with intelligent life, finally providing that comfort that we are not alone in the cold vast expanse of the universe. Yet on the other hand, what would we have to talk about? It’s more than likely that any alien race we make contact with would be so technologically and evolutionarily advanced it would be like humans trying to strike up a conversation with a couple of bees.
“So… uh… I really like that whole black and yellow thing you’ve got going on.”
“Umm… thanks. How’s the honey, by the way? Fresh from my stomach this morning.”
Actually, if human history is anything to go by, a more advanced civilisation will more than likely have intentions of the hostile and conquering variety. Or, as is the case in goofy sci-fi comedy Lazer Team, which premiered at this year’s Fantastic Fest, challenging us to a duel where the loser’s planet gets destroyed.
Responding to S(earch) for E(xtra) T(errestrial) I(ntelligence)’s “Is there anybody out there?” message blasted into the stars in the ’70s, the alien recipients throw down the intergalactic gauntlet but promise a mysterious package is on its way. Fast forward to 2015. The military have been preparing for the upcoming interstellar battle-royale for decades, training a ‘Champion of Earth’ from birth to be the pinnacle of physical, strategic and mental excellence. Fortunately, the mysterious package sent across the galaxies turns out to be a highly advanced weaponised suit of armour capable of bestowing the wearer enhanced speed, intelligence, defensive capabilities and huge fucking lasers. Unfortunately, instead of landing in the capable hands of our champion, it’s discovered by four local idiots whose variable levels of dimness are the only thing they have in common.
As well as a chronic case of Space Crabs.
Comprised of useless sheriff Hagan (Burnie Burns), bitter layabout Herman (Colton Dunn), obnoxious jock Zach (Michael Jones) and mulletted idiot Woody (Gavin Free), the self-proclaimed Lazer Team have to learn to overcome their own internal antagonism and work as a team if they have any hope of saving the planet from almost-certain destruction.
The debut, Indiegogo-funded feature of Austin-based production company Rooster Teeth, more well-known for plonking comic video shorts inspired by video games onto the cyber-web, turns out to be an engaging, good-natured ensemble comedy that’s just as adept at action as it is the well-timed comic beats. Recalling the SNL-irreverence of such ’80s blockbuster classics as Ghostbusters, Lazer Teams’s mix of heart, wit, slapstick and absurdity blend together to form a consistently amusing spoof that in the main eschews crudity, scattering the surprisingly slick VFX-filled action sequences with quotable one-liners and sly digs at the usual sci-fi tropes in our social media-conscious age.
Director/co-writer Matt Hullum’s knowing script gradually reveals the internal histories of our four disparate losers, which invariably involves shattered dreams, college football, and sheriff Hagan failing to defend his naïve and nubile young daughter Mindy (a spiky Alexandria DeBerry) from Zack’s raging hormones. The four main leads have a natural, likeable chemistry, and despite their almost constant bickering, Lazer Team never descends into eye-rolling tedium – allowing us to root for our would-be heroes as they learn to use their new-found powers whilst dodging alien-possessed humans, the clueless military, and the jealous rage of the now-rejected Champion of Earth (Alan Ritchson – whose character arc is as unexpected as it is touching).
Subverting our expectations by injecting a healthy dose of nuance amongst all the ridiculousness, characters develop from assholes to heroes, throwing off the shackles of cowardice for courage and lending the proceedings a refreshingly human centre to the point that when the climactic Lazer Team vs Alien Prick smack-down finally gets underway, you’ll actually give a shit as to how it all turns out.
It also turns out that fireworks are an effective treatment for Space Crabs!
Lazer Team became the most funded film campaign ever on Indiegogo, and if Rooster Teeth’s inaugural outing is anything to go by, perhaps we should stop looking to the stars for intelligent life, and start funding the creative cinematic clever clogs on our own planet first. After all, charity begins at home.