Movie: Lazer Team

Director: Matt Hullum

Starring: Burnie Burns, Gavin Free, Michael Jones, Colton Dunn, Allie DeBerry and Alan Ritchson

Many people are determined to make an everlasting and powerful impression on society, and prove that they have worthy attributes that deserve to be rightfully recognized. While some of people’s past actions and personalities traits have proved otherwise, as they readily fit into society’s low expectations of them, their continued persistence in achieving their goals grippingly proves their peers’ beliefs about them to be wrong. That powerful message is enthrallingly presented in director-co-writer-producer Matt Hullum’s new sci-fi comedy, ‘Lazer Team.‘ The independent action film proves that audiences genuinely appreciate not only its outrageous humor, but also its important message of accepting people for who they truly are, despite their past mistakes.

‘Lazer Team’ begins with a prologue that establishes its backstory: in 1977, human scientists on Earth discovered the Wow! signal,, which was a communication from an alien species that warned mankind of an impending invasion. The communication also promised that the foreign species would send a suit of power that would allow a human to serve as a champion and protect Earth. The U.S. government then spent several decades creating an elite super-athlete, Adam (Alan Ritchson), and physically prepared him for the day when the suit would arrive. Adam was trained from birth to use the suit to his advantage, so that he could defeat the alien invaders in a duel that will determine the planet’s future.

However, Adam and the government’s plans unexpectedly change only a few days before the battle is set to take place. His lifetime of training is rendered unnecessary when the incoming spacecraft accidentally gets shot down by two local residents, Woody (Gavin Free) and Herman (Colton Dunn). The two incapacitated the spacecraft when they drunkenly set off illegal fire works after a high school football game in their Texas town. The small-town’s sheriff’s deputy, Hagan (Burnie Burns), who has arrested the high-school’s quarterback, Zach (Michael Jones), stops to warn Woody and Herman to stop using the fireworks.

But when the spacecraft lands on Earth, the four discover the suit amidst the wreckage, which forces them to try to overcome their conflicts and become allies. Woody tries on the suit’s pair of super-speed boots, while Herman puts on the brain-augmenting helmet, Hagan sports an armpiece that generates a shield and Zach tries the other armpiece, which shoots a laser. When the high-powered equipment fuses to their bodies and renders them unremovable, the government is forced to allow the amateurs to take Adam’s place. Instead of relying on the highly trained champion, Earth must learn to depend on the coordinated efforts of the inept amateurs. The group soon collectively becomes known as Lazer Team when the not-so-smart football player, who’s interested in dating his classmate and Hagan’s daughter, Mindy (as Allie DeBerry), posts an unsanctioned photo of them on Instagram and dubs them the title name.

The creative and entertaining ‘Lazer Team’ is the first feature film created by Fullscreen’s pioneering production company, Rooster Teeth, a pioneering studio that was founded by Hullum and Burns in 2003, and is responsible for some of the biggest online series in history. The director and actor, who co-wrote the sci-fi action script with the film’s editors, Chris Demarais and Joshua Flanagan, effortlessly infused the story with relatable humor as they parodied modern society. From the perception that sports players like Zach only make it through high school because of their athletic ability, to a small-town officer like Hagan not knowing how to protect his community and Woody and Herman not being smart or athletic enough to garner success outside of their hometown, the comedy smartly uses comedy that proves that people don’t have to fit into society’s expectations to be happy. While the four Lazer Team members initially aren’t presented to be appreciated by their peers, their natural comic relief and gripping determination to utilize the suit to their advantage to protect the planet from the aliens prove what essential assets they really are to society.

Hullum and Burns, who also served as executive producers on ‘Lazer Team,’ also contributed to the sci-fi action film looking visually stunning. While the two helped make the film independently, they tirelessly worked to make the comedy thrive on its action sequences, which were powerfully crafted in part by stunt coordinator Jeff Schwan. The story is largely driven by the physical comedy and mishaps that the title team engages in as they put on the suit and are subsequently forced to save the world, including haplessly training with the government and learning how to cope with their new capabilities. So the actors intriguingly embrace the limitations of the budget while also wholeheartedly putting all of their effort into their performances, much like how their characters accept their lack of qualifications to save the world.

The Lazer Teams’ natural comic relief and determination to protect the human race, the alluring and amusing stunts created for the characters by Schwan on the film’s independent budget and the natural chemistry between Burns, Free, Jones and Dunn helped the sci-fi action film sell over 100,000 tickets in pre-sale, which grossed over $1 million worldwide. This success has led to ‘Lazer Team’ becoming the largest worldwide campaign in cinema on-demand history, and it has already become the highest-grossing film in the history of its on-demand distribution platform, Tugg.

‘Lazer Team,’ which is an original film that created by Rooster Teeth, marks the first time a movie created by online stars has garnered this much success theatrically among today’s young audience. The sci-fi action comedy, which is now playing in select theaters, is a YouTube Red Original Movie and will debut on YouTube Red early next month.

The sci-fi action movie is the result of a strategy where fans were integral to the production, promotion and distribution of the movie. Rooster Teeth’s 2014 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for the film raised over $2.48 million from 37,493 passionate supporters, which was four times the company’s goal. ‘Lazer Team’ set the record for the most funded film of all time, based on original IP, in Indiegogo’s history. The comedy’s success proves that no matter how fantastical a story’s plot and details are, and what kind of financial limitations its faced with during the production process, audiences will happily embrace characters who relatably realize they always need to believe in themselves.

Technical: B+

Acting: B

Story: B

Overall: B

Written by: Karen Benardello

Lazer Team Movie Review
(L-R) Gavin Free as Woody, Michael Jones as Zach, Allie DeBerry as Mindy, Colton Dunn as Herman and Burnie Burns as Hagan in ‘Lazer Team.’
Photo Courtesy of Rooster Teeth.

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By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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