Lazer Team (2016) puts the fun into crowdfunding.

Lazer TeamThe first feature film from celebrated web-based entertainment studio, “Lazer Team” is the film “Pixels” wishes it was (it’s also, in many respects, the film “Fantastic Four” should have been).

When the Earth is contacted by an alien transmission (a clever nod to the very real ‘Wow signal’ of 1977) it warns of an impending attack and offers technological assistance. Due to the vast cosmic distances involved, the technology – an advanced combat suit – will take decades to arrive so a baby is chosen to be trained and raised by the army in preparation for the defence of Earth. Everything goes to plan until the night of the suit’s arrival when it’s inadvertently shot down by a couple of drunken slackers, the local sheriff and a high school jock during a fireworks incident. As the suit is designed to bond with the person who finds it, the army has no choice but to use the remaining few days until the alien aggressors arrive to train the four misfits to defend the planet.

Where “Pixels” looked to the past for its alien invasion hijinks, “Lazer Team” has its sights firmly set on the future. Funded by a record-breaking Indiegogo campaign, the film retains the irreverent, snarky sense of humour of Rooster Teeth’s production stable while successfully making the leap to feature-length entertainment.

Cameos from the likes of current Barenaked Ladies frontman Ed Robertson and Neil deGrasse Tyson add to the merriment as we watch the likeably ridiculous misfits go through a slightly subversive version of the superhero origin story. The hilariously realised sequences of exploring and discovering of their individual powers as well as the reluctant team bonding and settling of old rivalries gives the movie a surprising degree of character-driven comedy and drama, the exact ambience that was missing from Fox’s Marvel misfire of last year.

Loyal to its internet roots, it features numerous in-jokes, shout-outs and references to other Rooster Teeth shows and characters (along with some subtle and not-so-subtle homages to “Ghostbusters“) and yet manages to tell its goofily engaging tale without alienating n00bs and latecomers. Despite the scatter gunning of gags, writer/ star Burnie Burns makes sure the movie actually has a good story and a decent third act twist which offers something a little different from your usual aliens attacking Earth storylines.

Although there’s a lot to applaud this production for, I can’t help but be a little wary of an emerging model of filmmaking which sets out to deliberately double-dip the fanbase. By reaching out to the fans for production funds and then charging them again for a ticket to see the finished product, it sets an uncomfortable precedent which we, as moviegoers, need to be aware of. That being said, if the productions are as good as “Lazer Team” is then maybe it’s not such a bad thing.

The theatrical release of “Lazer Team” in the UK seems to be incredibly limited but if you can find a showing, grab a ticket because this crazy mash-up of “Starship Troopers” and “Super Troopers” is well worth the price of admission whether or not you were a funder or not.

8/10 New Score-8