Apparently there’s still a hunger for films about little girls, circa 1977, struggling to be heard.
Otherwise, why would we get “Troop Zero,” a middling comedy about a ragtag bunch of friends who join forces to win the right to send their voices into outer space?
Highly retro, this fried-green feel-good movie checks all the boxes “Bad News Bears” did and gives us another shot at watching Allison Janney and Viola Davis rise above material both have done before.
They’re pulled in when a plucky kid named Christmas Flint (Mckenna Grace) decides to form her own troop of Birdies in order to win the right to talk to aliens.
To get to the finals, she and her troop (Troop Zero – because local officials have run out of numbers) have to earn merit badges and amass enough money to attend the jamboree where a winner will be decided. Naturally, her troop has more than its share of issues, including her own bed-wetting problem.
Still, they find a mentor in Miss Rayleen (Davis), a tough-talking assistant to her father (Jim Gaffigan), who has a few regrets of her own.
Tradition, here represented by Janney as the organizer of the Birdies, does not look kindly on outliers. Rather than help Troop Zero, she puts her eggs in the basket of a more “refined” bunch of girls.
Before the final trophy is presented, everyone goes through a journey of discovery. Friendships are made (and rekindled), flour is flung and, yes, pants are wet.
Directed by Bert and Bertie (a pseudonym for directors Amber Finlayson and Katie Ellwood), “Troop Zero” isn’t a refreshing take on an old song, just an old song.
Grace, a real charmer, smiles her way through some pretty heinous situations. Charlie Shotwell (as the girl-boy) rises above his.
The fun comes only when Davis (acting like one of Marge Simpson’s sisters) stares down Janney (who’s so good at these parts she should have been around in the ‘50s to see them through). They used to be friends and now find themselves on opposite sides of the equality debate.
Because the directors don’t want “Troop Zero” to land with a thud, they provide plenty of redemption and an ending that should make you glad you saw it on a streaming service and not in a theater.
“Troop Zero” doesn’t add up to much. But it does provide a way of piddling away a snow-filled Saturday afternoon.