The theater was filled to the brim. I was surprised. Yes, the tickets were sold out, but the theater had filled even more seats than the midnight premier of Star Wars: The Force Awakens that I saw a month earlier.
Thinking about it, the large crowd made sense. This would be the only day anyone would want to see Lazer Team in theaters.
The day afterwards, The New York Times gave it a review, surprisingly. Usually, movies like Lazer Team wouldn’t even register on the Gray Lady’s radar but it was there, and it was panned.
In his review, Neil Genzlinger writes “‘Lazer Team’ ends by setting itself up for a sequel, but that’s mighty wishful thinking. There’s not a big demand for laugh-free comedies.”
People who don’t know about the movie wouldn’t even get to see it, as it is playing on limited screenings, with all tickets needed to be booked before hand. There’s no huge marketing campaign to fill seats. Rooster Teeth, the creators and the same people behind the machinima series Red Vs. Blue, don’t have to pay attention to reviews from The New York Times. They only have to pay attention to the wishes of their fans.
The plot of the movie is simple, mostly playing off the interactions of the four main characters. Herman (Colton Dunn), a washed up high-school football star, Hagan (Bernie Burns) a local sheriff, Zach (Michael Jones) a wannabe jock and Woody (Gavin Free) who transitions from a redneck to the brains of the group. After finding a crashed spaceship, the group dawns the individual pieces of a “suit of power,” which is supposed to only work together. Now the group has to find a way to work around their differences to defeat an impending alien menace.
I think the real question that we should ask with fan movies like Lazer Team is less if it is good, but more questioning if it pleases the people it is made for.
It is hard to go into such a mind frame. If we did this with every director, then we would have to acquiesce to terrible schlock, like Michael Bay movies, or to the mindless crowd-pleasing flicks like James Cameron’s Avatar.
But in that same way, we would also have to create a new category for such movies. There are movies like The Boondock Saints which were panned by critics but found an immediate cult following. Movies like Lazer Team don’t fit in these categories. Its story, production values and humor are just not able to compete. The only reason the movie ended up in theaters was through the website Tugg, which allows people to petition theaters to put smaller movies on the big screen.
The New York Times felt obligated to review Lazer Team because it ended up in theaters. They gave it a poor review from the perspective of a movie critic. The team that created Lazer Team made its claim to fame by taking characters from the multiplayer of Halo: Combat Evolved and cracking wise at the very idea of fighting a war in a boxed canyon, with one base in clear view of the other side. Their content has not been recognized as
The crowd in the theater where I saw Lazer Team howled at every joke. They yelled out the name of cast members who they know from watching the Rooster Teeth podcast. There is intentional inside humor, especially with the very British Gavin Free as the redneck Woody, who becomes smarter after putting on the alien helmet and begins speaking in a British accent because “that is what Woody thinks smart people sound like.” Without prior knowledge of Gavin’s Britishness, this joke might miss but for those in the know, it adds an extra layer of humor.
This is not a good movie to review because it is pointless to do so. Can it be criticized? Yes. Should it be criticized? Yes, absolutely. The only way to make the next film better is with criticism. But can we do it in the usual style, as exemplified by The New York Times truncated, unhelpful reaming?
Probably not, but then again, here as a critic, I’m not really the right person to say.