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Lazer Team: Rooster Teeth web humor reaches cinemas

Starting in 2003 as just a group of friends recording lines in a closet, Rooster Teeth has become one of the most well-known independent, web-based production studios working today, and now they have finally made it to the big screen with the action/sci-fi comedy Lazer Team.

In 1977, the US government received a message from outer space that their world will be destroyed by a hostile alien race, and so the government spends the next several decades training the ultimate warrior to defend the Earth. Unfortunately, a group of bumpkins accidentally get their hands on the top secret weaponry that will be used to defend the planet, and it bonds to their bodies permanently, forcing them to take on the mantle of Earth’s champions.

As a long-time Rooster Teeth fan, I was definitely hyped for this film, but also very skeptical as to how their bizarre, blunt-faced comedy and cinematography would transfer from web short to full-length movie. As for the result, I was fairly impressed, though perhaps this is because of my skeptical expectations.

The comedy is very solid on the whole, ranging from wordplay to gross-out humor and showing a strong handle on most of the jokes.The style feels directly in-line with Rooster Teeth’s traditional style of writing for their web content, which could be either very refreshing or very off-putting to those unfamiliar with it. The film is also littered with references to Rooster Teeth’s past works, from a laptop with the RWBY logo on it to a computer voice mimicking the self-aware computer from their web short “Warning/Error.”

Four idiots discovering alien technology: what could possibly go wrong? Image taken from crowdfundinsider.com

However, I can also see this growing extremely tiresome to those who aren’t super familiar with the past work of Rooster Teeth.

I actually groaned a bit myself when they started directly quoting Red vs. Blue word for word. I wouldn’t say that the entire movie relies on these references, but it does make up a good portion of the comedy.

On the story end, there’s nothing really innovative going on, but it’s also not lazy or standard by any stretch. Leave it to Rooster Teeth to create a story where the heroes are completely inept morons that couldn’t care less if the world was destroyed and actually make this premise work. While they do lean a bit too hard on clichés at times, they’re also very much aware that these are clichés, and so they turn them into the fun kind of clichés that don’t get more annoying the longer they stay on screen, and they still do a great job with poking fun at some of these tropes that we’ve grown so accustomed to.

That being said, the overall arc of the story is fairly predictable.

Normally I try not to use this as an excuse to criticize a movie because some things are meant to be that way, but some of the turns in the plot came out a tad too stale, especially towards the end. I also had a bit of a problem with some portrayals of the military, but because it’s a comedy, it didn’t bother me too much.

The acting is also very hit-and-miss, with a lot of actors being pulled in for fan service rather than talent. The main four actors do surprisingly well, with Burnie Burns giving one of his better performances, as expected from Rooster Teeth’s co-founder, and Michael Jones blending his Rage Quit persona with a traditional jock archetype. Colton Dunn provided some solid serious dialogue, and Gavin Free somehow managed to pull off his role rather well (and for RT fans who are worried about him trying to use a Southern accent, don’t worry about). Alan Ritchson even gave a surprisingly emotional performance as the hero denied his birthright by these four losers from out of nowhere and added a lot of depth to his character.

Alan Ritchson as Earth's promised champion showcases the subtleties of this actor's potential
Alan Ritchson as Earth’s promised champion showcases the subtleties of this actor’s potential.
Image provided by fantasticfest.com

The secondary and cameo roles are where some of the acting falters noticeably.

As much as I love Gus Sorola as Simmons in RvB, he’s just not a good actor, and though his appearance in Lazer Team is very brief, it’s still pretty bad, and the same goes for many other RT cameos shoehorned into this film.

As for how the film looks, it’s about what you’d expect from a company that primarily makes content for YouTube. This will be extremely jarring to people going in and expecting what a “traditional” movie looks like and then get blindsided by lower quality film equipment, which shouldn’t be surprising considering that the IndieGogo campaign amassed about $2.4 million in funding; a sizable amount, but nowhere near what regular films of the same genre have.

There’s a very noticeable cleanness to every shot as a result of this equipment, and honestly, I found it more refreshing than anything. The camerawork is well-executed on the whole, but they do go a bit too heavy on the slo-mo sometimes, again having the RT fan service get in the way of the film overall, and the CG inserts don’t look terrible, but they’re not wholly convincing.

As for sound, I was very happy to hear Jeff Williams’ familiar blend of orchestral rock made famous in RWBY and the later seasons of RvB, adding just the right touch to every scene.

Overall, this is an almost mandatory watch for RT fans, bringing traditional RT comedy to a film with some decent writing and heart behind it.

If you aren’t familiar with some of their previous works, however, Lazer Team will probably leave you out in the cold, though as a departure from the stale cesspool of what American comedies have become, I still say it’s worth the watch if you don’t feel like going out this weekend.

While Lazer Team is already finished with its select theater screenings, the movie is now available through YouTube Red.

Final Score: 7/10

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