In Lazer Team’s opening sequence, the United States government is building a human super weapon deemed the Champion of Earth (Alan Ritchson), equipped with four powers inherited from Perseus, the Greek god, in order to defend the planet from a potential alien invasion. Once the training montage begins, the voiceover narration commences, and a glossy title card eventually appears, it’s already apparent that director Matt Hullum and the film’s three screenwriters are fashioning themselves outsiders from big-budget Hollywood productions, since the collection of scenes float atop a thin cloud of self-righteous mockery that takes well-worn genre archetypes and presents them with a pandering, jejune attempt at a blinkered audience’s engagement.
Perhaps the approach makes sense given the small but fervent following of production company Rooster Teeth, which can boast about having the most successful Indiegogo campaign of all time in its efforts to raise $2.5 million to make this film. For the uninitiated, Rooster Teeth is best known for their web series Red vs. Blue, a first-person-shooter satire that uses machinima techniques to synch newly recorded audio with gameplay from Halo. Though the series’s effect lessens considerably after a few episodes, its striking mix of found footage and foul-mouthed voiceover is undeniably perceptive in its replication of online gaming environments, neither underrepresenting their intensity nor overselling the central conceit.
The premise combines elements from Marvel comics, Men in Black, and ’80s pop culture to curiously neutered effect.
Such precedent makes the limp, relatively family-friendly Lazer Team all the more baffling, particularly since the film fails to cohere as a pointed critique about the sci-fi genre, the ascendency of Marvel superhero films, or the current value of nostalgia and gamer protocol as cultural capital. Rather, the premise thoughtlessly combines elements from Marvel comics, Men in Black, and a swath of ’80s pop culture to curiously neutered effect, as four townies from Milford, Texas stumble upon the technology meant to defend Earth from attack and are forced into the role of saviors themselves.
The filmmakers are content to trot out stereotypical digs at small-town life, with each of the four main characters functioning as a placeholder for an identifiable type. Local sheriff Hagan (Burnie Burns) has been the town doormat ever since he choked during the Big Football Game 20 years ago. Even more washed up is Herman (Colton Dunn), a former running back whose career was ended because of Hagan’s error; he gets shitfaced every Friday night and gives Hagan hell, while Zach (Michael Jones), the school’s new quarterback, starts fights at parties and winds up in the backseat of Hagan’s patrol car. And rounding out the group is Woody (Gavin Free), an illiterate yokel who divulges that he was made to “wear a helmet in elementary school,” for no other reason that to emphasize his status as a buffoon who may or may not actually be mentally handicapped. Just as the film’s entirety neglects to make sense of its sci-fi premise, these four dudes (call them Doc, Grumpy, Happy, and Dopey) are the shrill products of lazy imaginations.
There’s equally silly material involving Mindy (Alexandria DeBerry), Hagan’s daughter, who confesses her intent to sleep with Zach via video messenger after being brainwashed by a newly arrived group of aliens. A scene or two later, she’s tossing Zach around like a rag doll while the other guys, including Hagan, eat takeout in the adjacent room and make tisk-tisk comments about the scenario (they think they’re screwing), all before Zach comes crashing through a wall, someone gets kicked in his nuts, and Hagan takes a punch to the face from his own daughter. One wonders where Lazer Team even thinks it’s at by this point, as it’s so far removed from any perceptible purpose beyond the cheapest of slapstick juvenilia that one realizes its potential for genre commentary or insight of any sort had already been sucked down a black hole many, many minutes prior.