Sometimes you just want a film that will put a smile on your face while boosting the human spirit and that is what “Troop Zero” accomplishes. Starring McKenna Grace, Viola Davis, Jim Gaffigan, and directed by Bert & Bertie, this story centers on a little girl named Christmas living in rural Georgia in the late 70’s. Her mom has passed way, her father is a struggling lawyer, and friends are hard to come by. This little girl has dreams of outer space and when a competition offers a chance for a scout group to have their voices recorded on NASA’s Golden Record, she is determined to assemble a ragtag group of Birdie Scouts on her own.
What struck me most about this movie was the genuine approach. It’s filled with a cast of characters old and young that have their own unique, and often eccentric personalities. Yet none felt cartoonish. There was a human quality to each of them that I found very appealing. You have this little girl living with her father, she’s an outcast, with no real friends to speak of and while that may sound like a been-there-done-that base for a plot, it certainly delivers a fresh take on the genre. This little girl named Christmas is the shining light of the film and through Grace’s performance you can easily connect with her. She has all the naivete you would expect from a kid her age, but there is also a subtle maturity to her.
She’s lost a parent and been forced to grow up quicker than most given that her father isn’t the most put together, and also still reeling from the loss of his wife. The result was a charming balance between child and young adult, with Grace delivering the dialogue through a heartfelt sincerity you can’t help but love. It’s a coming-of-age story as this young girl gathers a group of outsiders, and through the ups and downs we get to see the natural growth of their friendships. But there is also a bit of a coming-of-age path for a couple of the adult characters as well that I thought added another strong layer of heartwarming intrigue. This is where Viola Davis comes in to ground all the adolescence with an unassuming subplot of regret, reflection, and thoughts of “what if” that nearly any adult can relate to.
She isn’t happy with her place in life. She doesn’t really want to be the troop mother for this wild group of kids either. But she can’t help herself from being there for them and that internal struggle was something that played out with a realistic progression that adults can connect with. Much like most of the story layers because one of the strongest positives in this one other than the performances, was its down to earth tone. It’s a story of courage, friendship, acceptance, optimism, and hope. But it doesn’t play out like you would expect. There is a real-life vibe dropped onto this movie that quietly allows all the emotional beats to land without the feel of theatrics or forced emotional expressions. The backdrops may be unique to their own, yet the people this story centers on are dealing with issues anyone can connect with.
This is a movie you think you know the formula to when it begins. It may even reach a familiar end point. But the journey it takes to get there is very much its own. It shows that sometimes when someone is so headset on one thing, that they could possibly find something else missing in their life much like what can happen in the real world. It’s a perfect blend of comedy and drama and it results in a surprisingly engaging experience for all ages. The dramatic undercurrent isn’t heavy handed and the humor shines through character personalities and situations in the story-line. It will warm your heart, make you laugh, and at times have you contemplating the path of your own life. At first this may seem like a movie you have seen before, but it won’t be long before the story pulls you into the settings with these characters to give you an endearing tale of growth that is very much all to its own.