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Entries in Lazer Team [2015] (1)

Friday
Jan292016

Lazer Team (2015)

Earnest Goes to Camp

Remember when Amazon only sold books, movies, and music? Or when Netflix just shipped DVDs to your home? YouTube has joined the entertainment revolution, evolving from a novelty video-sharing site that gave people the opportunity to "Broadcast Yourself" into a largely lawless media galaxy of pirated content, sanctioned content, and funny cat videos. Now, they make movies.

It's fitting that Lazer Team, one of YouTube Red's* first "original" productions, is little more than a re-packaged collection of references to other films strung together by an equally Xeroxed premise. YouTube's users get away with this all the time, uploading mainstream movies in chunks so their friends can skip right to the best parts. Lazer Team models itself as a classic regular-guys-band-together-to-save-the-world comedy, in the vein of Ghostbusters, Independence Day, and Men in Black. Unfortunately, there's also some Green Lantern and Pixels in the mix.

Co-writer Burnie Burns stars as Hagan, a small-town Texas sheriff who never got over losing the Big Football Game in high school. Neither did his former best friend, Herman (Colton Dunn), now the obnoxious town drunk. Herman and his skinny-rube drinking buddy, Woody (Gavin Free), provide Hagan no shortage of grief, as does the current local football star, Zach (Michael Jones), an alcoholic moron who has somehow wormed his way into the heart of Hagan's daughter, Mindy (Allie DeBerry).

The four main players find themselves in the middle of a field one night. Zach is locked up in Hagan's patrol car (the result of a drunken brawl), while Hagan tries to stop Herman and Woody from lighting illegal fireworks. The biggest rocket goes off and, while careening into the beautiful night sky, collides with an alien spacecraft that was about to land at a nearby military base. The aliens, you see, are a race of noble creatures who'd planned to deliver a power suit to the Earth's super-secret "champion", a brave, intelligent defender against a pending invasion of ruthless space monsters. Instead, the suit winds up with our sloppy protagonists, who are each unwittingly gifted (actually grafted) with a single piece of glistening white armor.

Hagan gets a laser shield. Herman gets a pair of super-speed boots. Zach gets a laser-blast gauntlet. And Woody gets a super-helmet, which grants him all the knowledge of the universe--and a British accent because "that's what smart people sound like to stupid people." Before anyone can figure out just what the hell happened, Zach has Tweeted, Facebooked, and Instagram-ed a picture of the guys in their sweet new gear, dubbing them "Lazer Team".

This doesn't sit well with the military, who must change tactics and train Hagan's men to be Earth's mightiest heroes. Their coach is a real Captain America-type named Adam (Alan Ritchson), who was bred to wear the suit, and told that he was destined to save the planet from annihilation. Cue the wacky training montages. Cue the rival alien team covertly landing and possessing another team of soldiers. Cue Hagan and company disbanding and then reconstituting during Mankind's Darkest Hour. Spoiler Alert: things turn out okay, and the filmmakers leave the door wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide open for a sequel (more on that in a minute).

Here's where things get complicated. I don't like Lazer Team as a comedy, but I really like the cast and the ideas that peek through all the references and lifted material. Burns, co-writers Chris Demarais, Josh Flanagan, and co-writer/director Matt Hullum spend too much time on dick jokes and making sure we know that they know about the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Come to think of it, this movie would have worked much better as a feature-length version of Item 47. In that short film, which was included on the home-video release of the first Avengers movie, average citizens discover some leftover invading-alien weaponry and get into trouble. Imagine if Lazer Team were given the Marvel treatment: a legit action movie, punctuated by levity, with the "real" Captain America having to train a new generation of average-Joe superheroes.**

As it stands, Lazer Team could use a lot more Galaxy Quest and a lot less "Guardians of the Galaxy Best Jokes Clips Pt 5". Hullum, Burns, and company have created a slick, well-acted, and deep-down-earnest effort. The sequel's story could propel this charismatic cast in a hundred interesting directions. I can only hope for an action-comedy so original, so brain-tickling, that people will be anxious to watch it over and over again--and not just on YouTube.

*Do not confuse this with "RedTube"--especially if you're at work.

**It'd be far more interesting than watching the same costumed franchise-bearers video-game the crap out of each other for six movies.