Thursday, March 12, 2020

Troop Zero: Young Earthlings on a Mission

By José Alberto Hermosillo

AFI FEST FILM REVIEW: “Troop Zero” is one of the most refreshing movies of the year. An unforgettable underdog children’s adventure based on real-life events captivating audiences on Amazon Original - Prime Video.

In 1977, NASA sent two Gold Records to space with “The Sounds of the Earth” inside the Voyager spacecraft. NASA invited children from all over the world to record a greeting in their native language.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration commissioned a small town in Georgia to represent the country. Local children team up to compete for a slot in the recording.

Troop Zero cast at the AFI FEST red carpet. Photo José Alberto Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

In there, we meet Christmas Flint, performed by young and talented Mckenna Grace (“Gifted,” “How to Be a Latin Lover”). Her mother’s absence makes the young dreamer feel that someone in space is listening.

Mckenna Grace, Troop Zero, AFI FEST. Photo José A. Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

To reach her goal, Christmas recruits a group of misfit Birdie Scouts to compete against other “normal” groups. 

The purpose is to earn the most “merit badges” to succeed in the mission. 

Participating in those trials will bring children together and leave them fond, lasting memories of their experiences.

Director Bertie, writer Lucy Alibar, and “Troop Zero” cast. Photo José A. Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

According to the directors Bert & Bertie, this vibrant and colorful film took two months of preparation and thirty-two days of shooting.

After reading the script, they were inspired to work on the original story of “The Voice Recording to Space Set in the 1970s,” something they considered meaningful because unconventional children were involved.

Bertie is the co-director of Troop Zero. AFI FEST Premiere. Photo José A. Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

Bert & Bertie collaborated closely with screenwriter Lucy Alibar, who also wrote: “Beasts of the Southern Wild” in 2012. Miss Alibar mentioned being open to suggestions and letting the actors collaborate during rehearsals.

In creating such “diverse” characters, she said that “they never put colors on them.” They only knew that they had to be racially mixed. Alibar also mentions she was inspired by her close friends: “They are so cool and different.”

The filmmakers said staging the dance scene was the most challenging part.

Allison Janney and Viola Davis in “Troop Zero.” Photo courtesy of Amazon Original ©2019 Prime Video

Having two Academy Award-winning actresses in the cast, Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”) and Viola Davis (“Fences”), made the young actors feel star-struck. But as soon they started working with celebrities, the youngsters gained the confidence to act at their level. The young actors’ performances are authentic and praiseworthy.

The audience may feel that the action of this “brat pack” movie takes too long to take off, but in the end, “Troop Zero” is a rewarding movie to watch.

Troop Zero cast, AFI FEST Premiere. Photo José A. Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

Other successful films that empower children and embrace the much-needed diversity in Hollywood are “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “And Hunting for the Wilderpeople.” These movies also portrayed adults and children in their unique and fantastic worlds.

Troop Zero cast. AFI FEST Premiere. Photo José Alberto Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

The film teaches us that winning is not that important. What matters is to embrace our differences, accept each other the way we are, and gain confidence by participating in something larger than life that leads to personal gratification. 

“Troop Zero” is simple, but its freshness and lively characters exceed expectations, making the audience enjoy the ride to the end and beyond. 

Troop Zero cast and film critic José Alberto Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

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