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Review: 'Troop Zero' is a strange, frequently wonderful ode to pre-teen misfits

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TROOP ZERO featuring Mckenna Grace courtesy of Amazon Studios. (Photo: Amazon Studios)

Troop Zero
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Directors:
Bert & Bertie
Writer: Lucy Alibar
Starring: Mckenna Grace, Viola Davis, Jim Gaffigan
Genre: Comedy
Rated: PG for thematic elements, language, and smoking throughout

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Synopsis: A group of elementary school misfits compete for a national competition that will allow them to record a message for NASA’s Golden Record, an audio time capsule that was sent into outer space aboard the two Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977.

Review: “Troop Zero” features one of the strangest scenes in the history of family films. It’s also my favorite feel-good film since “The Peanut Butter Falcon” as it presents a group of misfit kids who have been told that they are essentially worthless rebel against the system and find themselves and their own sense of confidence in the process.

Caught somewhere between “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Troop Zero” is a little cartoonish in that its characters are all pushed to the extremes. The snooty kids are the snootiest and the outsiders our way out in left field. You’re either a winner or a loser, there is no in between. That’s not true to life, but it is accurate in the sense that a child sees the world through a more simplistic lens.

Christmas Flint (McKenna Grace) is a precocious girl who has an intense interest in outer space. Her mother, who has died, is somewhere among the stars.

When Christmas learns that there is to be a competition to be included on the Golden Record, she is determined to enter and win. Being an outsider makes that difficult, if not impossible, as Massey (Allison Janney), Christmas’s teacher and the leader of the Birdie Scouts, stands in her way.

The film co-stars Jim Gaffigan as Ramsey Flint, Christmas’s well-meaning father, and Viola Davis as Ramsey’s secretary. Both, though borderline dysfunctional, serve as inspirational figures in Christmas’s life. You do your best with the hand that life dealt you.

“Troop Zero” isn’t a perfect film, but it is perfectly charming in its own strange and wonderful way. It gets weird before it gets poignant, but its much-needed message is powerful.