Christmas Flint (Mckenna Grace) is a tween outcast with her head in the clouds after her mother’s death. She ponders the stars, contemplates their meaning. Her father, Ramsey (Jim Gaffigan), is doting but pulled in all directions by a law practice he’s not exactly great at managing. It’s the summer, and Christmas learns that a NASA scientist will judge a talent show at the Birdie Scout Jamboree — from which the winning troop will have its voices featured on NASA’s Golden Record that will be sent out into the reaches of space. Christmas corrals a group of other misfits to form “Troop Zero,” setting out to earn badges and raise money to attend the event.
Troop Zero is so earnest and big-hearted that it’s hard to say anything negative about it. The humor is hit-and-miss. Most of the adventures are gags seen in other coming-of-age stories about kids finding family in their friendships during the summer. The villains are cut-outs of mean moms and preppy girls The script from Lucy Alibar (the Oscar-nominated co-writer of Beasts of the Southern Wild) is overly reliant on twee voiceover from Christmas to flesh out her world, and after about 20 minutes it becomes more grating than sweet. A particularly anachronistic sequence re-creates the opening to Reservoir Dogs for … some reason. It isn’t even set in the correct time period, occurring a decade before the release of that film.
Still, there’s a sweetness to the entire story, and Alibar’s characters are fleshed out by a great supporting cast. Joining Grace & Gaffigan are Allison Janney as a local teacher who helps run the Birdies and Viola Davis as Miss Rayleen, a family friend / employee who is close to Christmas. Their characters are stuck within the confines of the archetypical roles, but both actresses bring a lot to what they have to work with.
Although rarely laugh-out-loud funny, Troop Zero still maintains a general pleasantness throughout.