It’s always refreshing when a new movie manages to evoke a certain era/style/tone of filmmaking without leaning too heavily on the homage, remake, and/or rip-off button. It’s much tougher to evoke the playfulness of a Steven Spielberg or Joe Dante film than it is to simply emulate it, and that’s sort of what makes the amiably goofy sci-fi action comedy Lazer Team work: it feels a lot like a forgotten screenplay from 1986 that someone put into production last year without much in the way of rewrites.
The premise is like something out of an old Steven Spielberg production: four small-town goofballs intercept an interstellar super power suit (that was meant for someone much more qualified) and then have little choice but to step into the role of Earth’s one true savior when an alien race invades our helpless little planet. Got all that? Not only is the self-proclaimed “Lazer Team” woefully under-prepared to deal with an alien apocalypse; they’re also plain old misfits across the board: a low-key cop who gets no respect; a cocky teenage jerk who’s angry at the world; a former athlete who has fallen on hard times; and a blithering idiot who just follows the crowd.
They’re an unlikely squad to face off against Earth’s first alien invasion, but that’s part of what makes Lazer Team a good deal of quaint, geeky fun: not only because it’s amusing to watch these clueless dolts monkey around with super-destructive alien technology, but mainly because the kooky quartet insists on bickering the whole damn time. If the flick takes a little while to build up a good head of steam, it stays afloat thanks to the quick wit of the four leads and an amiably immature attitude. Lazer Team is at its best when it plays like a good-natured PG-13 satire of super manly action films like Armageddon, and it’s the film’s consistently amiable tone that allows one to overlook a stray clunky joke or two.
Backed by some surprisingly nifty special effects and some colorful supporting characters (Alan Ritchson as the world’s ultimate alpha male is really funny, as is Alexandria DeBerry as a seemingly ditzy blonde who turns out to be a valuable ally), Lazer Team might not be a non-stop laugh-a-minute type of movie, but taken as a low-budget, high-energy, quick-witted homage to the best in 1980s matinee movies, it manages to be a pretty good time. It’s not nearly as edgy as recent genre throwbacks like Turbo Kid, Wolfcop, or Manborg, but if you’re a fan of that type of flick, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Lazer Team.
Image: Rooster Teeth/Fantastic Fest