by Kyle Arango
Amazon has quietly been turning into a real force as a studio with the quality of content they put out. Films like Manchester by the Sea and The Big Sick have been huge successes critically for them and garnered them respect from the industry. Not everything is a success though and as we have said before, dropping a film in January is usually the kiss of death. Now with Troop Zero out, where does it find itself on that spectrum? Unfortunately it is way on the lower end. Troop Zero is fine for younger audiences but a completely empty experience that offers nothing of note or substance to take with you.
In rural Georgia 1977, a little girl scout named Christmas dreams of life in outer space where she hopes to be heard. A competition is presented by the troop where the winning team gets to have their voices recorded on NASA’s golden record and sent into space. She forms a team called Troop Zero to win this competition with other misfits and hopefully have her voice heard in the stars. It is a noble concept and one that if done right can add some value, especially considering her purpose for pursuing this goal, to speak to her deceased mother. However, the weight of the story never hits home like the filmmakers intend it to. That’s the problem with this film. There are good ideas here but they are bogged down with pillow fights and screaming children that just annoys you after awhile. It’s like when someone brings a screaming baby on your plane and it doesnt shut up the entire flight. You just half to strap in and hope it loses its voice after a while, which they never do. That’s the thing, this film felt like a chore to get through and does anyone really enjoy doing chores?
The thing with Troop Zero is they got a ton of talent to build this film around who are just given nothing really to work with. McKenna Grace is considered one of the best child actors working today. She just stands out in every role she is in so it is no surprise she got the lead here. She does her best with what she is given and carries a charm with her that is believable, she just never gets to take it anywhere. She is surrounded with Oscar winners like Viola Davis and Allison Janney who are fine in this film but are also forgettable. Viola Davis can usually do no wrong, as she does here, it is just a thankless role that gets brushed aside. Janney plays the mean teacher basically trying to keep the troop from succeeding because they are a bunch of misfits. I have seen so much better from her and this role is just a weird choice for her to take. This just leads to my ultimate take from the movie, i’ve seen it all before. This film never tries to side step you and have you guessing. Once you realize this film is something you’ve seen before, you start waiting for it to get to the end so you can go home.
Troop Zero is the type of film you can plant your kids in front of for 90 minutes and distract them for a moment, but even they may start to get bored. It is harmless and not terrible by any stretch, it is just a journey to get through and arbitrary once you see how predictable they are being. Amazon has produced so much better content the past couple years and you can see why they buried this one early in 2020. This is a blink and you miss it type of film, and your life will be no different if you never knew it existed in the first place.
The Verdict: ⅖ Stars