From the opening moments of Troop Zero I was transported to a younger time, a steamy Southern summer, alive with crickets and other nighttime critters. My family home wasn’t exactly the same location, nor was my grief exactly the same as what 9-year-old Christmas Flint carries, but I recognize that girl, and what it feels like to get swallowed up in the Milky Way. Without a mother to hold, an optimistic girl embraces a canopy of stars.
The immersive quality of the film is delivered via an amazing creative team: screenplay by Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild), cinematography by James Whitaker, production design by Laura Fox, music by Rob Lord, sound design by Paul Pirola, et al.
The hyper-real setting, a small Georgia town of 1977, includes a host of misfits:
A new widower who can’t remember to bill his clients or to wear his pants outside the cluttered double wide. (Jim Gaffigan)
His chain-smoking office manager and reluctant troop leader, who gets her raging feminist-black power on. (Viola Davis should win an Oscar® for her performance.)
A prim principal who plays the always proper foil. (Precision performance by Allison Janney.)
The adults obviously have their own struggles, but this story belongs to the kids. Christmas (Mckenna Grace) and her gender-bending best friend, Joseph (Charlie Shotwell), recruit other misfits like Smash and Hell-No for their troop of grade school Birdies. (Think Brownie Scouts with a twist.)
During troop meetings the fledgling Birdies find their strengths as they earn badges. The film earns its best-scene-payoff award when a NASA scientist rocks to Troop Zero’s cover of “Space Oddity” by David Bowie, and later that night connects with Christmas’s habit of talking with intelligent life among the stars.
Like many coming-of-age motion pictures, this one has a contest and the winner gets a trophy. But the real winners get the real prize — a shared sense of community and the unfettered joy of being alive, a vibrant part of a dazzling galaxy. See Troop Zero. It’s shot through with fresh spirit.
See anything and everything by directing duo Bert & Bertie.
Troop Zero is being distributed by Amazon Studios.