Review: MEGA TIME SQUAD is a Hilarious Romp That Plays Like the Best Twisted Episode of Looney Tunes
One of the funniest movies I have watched in the last decade, and which has crept its way into a regular rotational viewing for me, would be Taiki Wakiti’s and Jemaine Clement’s What We Do in the Shadows,. aA New Zealand mockumentary about a group of vampires, all with vastly different personalities and traits, living with each other in a large flat in the town of Wellington. After repeat viewings, I became curious as to what other films New Zealand had to offer. If they could pull off a great comedy/horror faux documentary about vampires, werewolves, zombies and the general shenanigans they might get into, what else am I missing? I started to hear about this new sci-fi/comedy out of New Zealand called Mega Time Squad. The film was making the festival rounds, playing at the Fantasia Film Festival and FrightFest during the middle of 2018, and I became enamored at the great critical reception this movie was getting. I wanted to see this movie. Upon learning that it was finally hitting limited theaters and VOD in February, my excitement was building. To my complete delight, I have been tasked with reviewing this movie, complete with a digital copy to view in the comfort of my own home. I couldn’t be more stoked. Can Mega Time Squad live up to the pre-release hype that spilled out of various festivals, or will my high expectations be the death kneel to what ends up being an average flick?
The story follows John (Anton Tennet), a low-level hood that runs jobs and tasks for wannabe small time crime lord Shelton (Jonny Brugh, who I recognized IMMEDIATELY as Deacon from What We Do in the Shadows). Shelton orders John and one other good goon to rob a Chinese antique shop, but during the heist John ends up coming into possession of a mystical bracelet, despite warnings to leave it alone. As John soon finds out, the bracelet allows the wearer to travel back in time to avoid any unfortunate occurrence or situation that might arise, but also creates a clone of the wearer. John ends up coming up with the idea of cloning himself multiple times to create his own gang, the titular Mega Time Squad, to make his own mark on the land, steal back the money from the Chinese antique store robbery and win over Shelton’s younger sister Kelly (Hetty Gaskell-Hahn). Unfortunately, this ends up, as foretold by the Chinese shop owner, summoning a powerful demonic soul that is coming to claim all of the John’s for itself. Can this dimwit escape the fate he is creating for himself, or will his snap decision be his undoing?
Mega Time Squad, from director Tim van Dammen (who helmed the interesting sounding Romeo & Juliet: A Long Song, a retelling of the classic Shakespeare story via a trailer park location), is one of those breezy 90 minute movies that go by in an instant, making you feel happy and giddy inside without being too heavy handed or sluggish. It doesn’t do anything revolutionary or even particularly memorable, at least not to the degree that What We Do in the Shadows managed to accomplish, but that doesn’t mean this is not an enjoyable experience. Definitely aimed as more of an action-comedy than horror, the movie flies by with witty exchanges and absurd circumstances that create themselves as Johnny continuously clones himself in an effort to create his own little gang and to offset any problems that arise from one clone to the other. These problems are handled in hilarious fashion, such as when he needs to clone himself to get two of the Johnnies out of a robbery gone bad at the bank, complete with literally there is no cash on hand and a bank manager who only took the job because he was promised that robberies would never happen. Another sequence involving the five Johnny clones running around crime boss Shelton’s house in pursuit of the stolen Chinese antique store money is played out like a macabre Looney Tunes cartoon, with Johnnies running in and out of rooms, up and down stairs and appearing in more places than one within a single frame. The visual presentation of multiple Johnnie’s running around and getting into trouble is done very well, seamlessly blending four or five copies of actor Anton Tennet in one frame together without it appearing to be digital trickery. I also laughed at the unfortunate incidents that befell muscled goon Terry, who can’t seem to avoid getting hit in the eye multiple times throughout the movie by various weaponry, whether it be a gun or a slingshot. I must also make special mention of the hotel manager in this movie, who is only in about three scenes but kills it with his sarcastic facial mannerisms and unexpected lisp, which makes every line he utters pure gold and is delivered with the right amount of attitude. Anton Tennet does a respectable job as the dimwitted but ultimately sweet natured Johnny, a man only trying to make something of himself in a world that seem destined to make him suffer.
Jonny Brugh also is able to make his mark as the inept and multi-layered crime boss Shelton, proving that What We Do in the Shadows was not a one trick pony performance, and establishes himself as quite the strong comedic actor that should get the worldwide recognition that Jemaine Clement and Taiki Wakiti have obtained. As for the horror elements, MTS is actually rather light on those aspects, but does end up delivering one good gooey shot of gore that allows it to get a pass in that department, and the demon that is alluded to and spotted in a few scenes does elicit fear for our main protagonist’s well-being.
At the end of the day, Mega Time Squad is the quintessential light breezy action-comedy that delivers on the promise of a good time. While it doesn’t reach the heights that of What We Do in the Shadows accomplishes in terms of comedic and horror tones, it doesn’t mean that it is not a good movie. Not everything has to be the near perfection that Taika Wakiti’s and Jemaine Clement’s magnum opus delivers, it just has to present 90 minutes of screen time that makes you believe that the time you invested was not wasted. Mega Time Squad is a fun movie, and honestly, what else could you ask for? Mega Time Squad hits theaters and VOD on Friday, February 15th.