4YE Reviews: Troop Zero Is A Stylish Underdog Story But Lacks…Something

Credit: Sundance Institute

There’s no doubt that the ’70s was a time for reinvention. America fought in Vietnam and dealt with the changing social atmosphere that demanded women’s rights and peace and goodwill. Disco raved. Things in American society were shifting and grooving with counter-culture movements. It’s a time in our history that felt like anything could happen.

Troop Zero takes that feeling and ratchets it up a few notches with the tale of Christmas Flint (McKenna Grace) who is absolutely certain that there are aliens up in space and she wants to make contact with them because she thinks her dead mother will be able to hear her if she can. Christmas is the epitome of a tomboy. She doesn’t fit in with other kids her age. Her only friend is the flamboyant Joseph, who lives in the same trailer park she does. Christmas also has Miss Rayleen (Viola Davis), a no-nonsense secretary who never went to law school but who wants to be a lawyer.

With Joseph and Miss Rayleen, Christmas attempts to infiltrate the Birdie Scouts, a high profile sister organization to the Girl Scouts. The Birdie Scout troop in their small town is comprised of the rich, popular kids in their small town and is led by the principal of Christmas’ school Miss Massey (Allison Janney). What follows is a comedy of errors as well as a lesson of finding yourself and being comfortable with yourself in the face of adversity and bullying.

It’s hard to argue with the amount of talent in this cast. Davis and Janney are a couple of high profile heavy hitters and their characters are reflections of that. This is not the Miss Rayleen or Miss Massey show, but they steal the scenes they’re involved in and because of that, I wish we got more of Miss Rayleen and Miss Massey. Their history together is only hinted at in the plot, but watching these two go toe-to-toe with each other is a thing I didn’t know I needed until this film. The two play off of each other well. When can we get a movie with them together again? (Yes, I know they starred together in The Help, but I don’t remember them sharing scenes together.)

Of course, I’ve loved Janney for years and Miss Massey is a perfect Southern snake in the grass. She’s the rich girl your momma warns you about. She’s privileged, smarmy, and will stab you in the back (or the front) if you’re not careful. She’ll also step on you when you’re down and that’s what makes her such an interesting character. That and the image of her spiking her lemonade with whiskey lets you know she’s up to no good, but you’ll probably love her anyway. I know I did.

Despite David and Janney looking like they are enjoying themselves, Troop Zero simply failed in every other aspect for me. The movie should have been about Hell-No (Milan Ray) instead of Christmas. But, had that happened, it would’ve been a whole other movie. Christmas simply didn’t hold my attention and her story felt… I don’t even know how to describe it. It fell flat for me. Christmas is a character I feel like I’ve seen before: blonde, scrawny, motherless, and looking for fulfillment. Hell-No appealed to me because she was a character I’ve not seen before: scrappy, industrious, angry, but with a heart of gold. Maybe it’s me yearning for more black main characters. Either way, I wanted more Hell-No and less Christmas.

I also just felt that this was a story I’ve seen so many times that nothing felt fresh. Nothing caught my attention besides Davis, Janney, and Hell-No. The jokes weren’t there for me. The dialogue was witty, don’t get me wrong, but there was just so much I didn’t like about Troop Zero that I probably won’t ever watch it again.

Shelby Arnold
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