Review by Sean Boelman
Troop Zero, directed by filmmaker duo Bert & Bertie, is arguably the cutest movie to come out in quite a while. Even though the story may not break any narrative ground, the lighthearted and crowd-pleasing nature of the film is sure to be absolutely infectious and make viewers long for the good ol’ days.
The movie tells the story of a young girl in late 1970’s Georgia that dreams of going to space, hoping to earn a spot on NASA’s Golden Record by forming a ragtag group of scouts to participate in a talent competition. Although the film is a relatively standard underdog story on paper, writer Lucy Alibar brings so much heart to the script that one can’t help but fall in love with the movie.
In terms of underdog stories, the film covers all the familiar thematic bases. The core message of the movie is to never give up even when defeat seems unavoidable, and while there are plenty of films that say the same thing, Troop Zero is honest and heartfelt with the way it handles this moral. Younger viewers who watch the movie will almost certainly find themselves inspired by the infectious optimism of the characters.
The film’s breakneck pacing also helps keep the movie consistently entertaining. The film moves along really quickly, as the characters find themselves in all sorts of crazy hijinks, but this structure is very reminiscent of some of the best family movies of the 70’s and 80’s, an era for which Alibar and Bert & Bertie obviously have so much respect.
However, perhaps the most effective thing about this movie is its character development. In many ways, the characters check all the boxes of the group of misfits that can be expected of a film like this, but the relationship between them is built in such a way that their friendship feels completely real. Admittedly, some of the side characters feel less rounded than others, but the dynamic of the group as a whole is great.
The ensemble of the movie is absolutely amazing, headed by two Oscar-winning actresses battling it out as rival scout leaders. Viola Davis and Allison Janney are both cast against type in the film, and they do an excellent job of bouncing off of each others’ sensibilities. The real star of the show, though, is the enormously talented Mckenna Grace who finally gets another chance to shine in this movie with a subtle and nuanced turn.
On a technical level, the film is quite strong, as Bert & Bertie bring a very quirky and indie style to a movie that otherwise feels more mainstream and accessible. The film does an excellent job of making the audience feel like they are in a 1970’s Georgia, from detailed production design to a phenomenal soundtrack that influences the movie in many memorable ways.
Even though Troop Zero may not be the most original underdog story, it is thoroughly enjoyable and features some of the most heartwarming moments to grace the screen in quite a while. Thanks to a committed cast and a charming script, this is a crowd-pleaser not to miss.
Troop Zero hits select theaters and Amazon Prime on January 17.