REVIEW: Troop Zero (2020)

Release Poster – Amazon Studios

The following is a review of Troop Zero — Directed by Amber Finlayson & Katie Ellwood (also known as Bert & Bertie).

Bert & Bertie’s Troop Zero is a feel-good dramedy about a young girl, Christmas Flint (played by Mckenna Grace), who looks to the stars in search of life and her mother. She lives in a trailer park with her widowed father, Ramsey (played by Jim Gaffigan), who has told his daughter that her mother is among the stars, comets, and meteors. Because of this Christmas is obsessed with space, and she sometimes uses odd descriptions to describe people in her life. For example, Christmas, at one point, calls Miss Rayleen (played by Viola Davis) an “an intergalactic warrior,” even though she is nothing of the sort. One day, Christmas overhears that girl scout troops will compete at a jamboree to have their voices recorded by NASA and sent into space. This is a dream come true for the perennially bullied Christmas, so she begins to assemble a group of misfits to compete as a girl scout troop at the jamboree, but she soon learns that the girl scout community will not easily accept unique newcomers.

Written by Beasts of the Southern Wild co-writer Lucy Alibar, Troop Zero was, nevertheless, surprisingly southern. Jim Gaffigan employs a distracting accent that goes well with the characters’ trailer park surroundings, and his character is one of the memorable supporting characters in the film. Oscar-winners Viola Davis and Allison Janney share a couple of scenes together, and they are both perfectly fine in the film, but the scenes that focused on the young characters worked much better than the Oscar-winners’ material. Frankly, I think the most interesting thing about this film is that it shows that Mckenna Grace can carry a film like this. I think that Grace handles the emotional scenes quite well (in one late scene, she almost made me tear up), and this is a good addition to her acting reel.

However, I have to admit that this film kept on losing my interest. Troop Zero feels like a NASA-obsessed kid’s version of Little Miss Sunshine. It has a nice but foreseeable message at the center of the film, though. At its best, Troop Zero is innocuous and wholesome, but, at its worst, it, frankly, is quite formulaic and predictable. Although the jamboree that the film leads up to is worth the wait — their performance is very cute and it ends in an unbelievable but slightly humorous way — the film itself is tired and feels longer than it is. Frankly, the film almost lost my interest at the thirty-minute mark because of how predictable everything was.

Bert & Bertie’s Troop Zero is a feel-good but likely quite forgettable straight-to-Prime-Video dramedy. Though Troop Zero is charming, and even though the film does feature notable actors who possess the skill to liven up even the hackneyed or blandest scenes, it ultimately did not leave a strong impression on me. It is a little bit ironic that Troop Zero is essentially a very ordinary and unmemorable film about embracing what makes you special. Though I will admit that the film moved me in its final moments, I don’t think Bert & Bertie’s film manages to set itself apart from other films in its subgenre.

5.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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