Christmas Flint–what a name–wants nothing more than to win the opportunity to be recorded on NASA’s Golden Record. Ever since her mom passed away, she’s been fixated on all-things-outer-space, including aliens, stars, and planets. In order to win, she has to accomplish a nearly impossible task–recruit Birdie troop members and a leader, help each of her friends earn at least one badge, and then find $500 to attend the Jamboree competition.
This is no easy feat. There’s another troop in town, led by Miss Massey (played by Allison Janney) that collectively has the faux sweetness and poise required of young ladies in 1970s Georgia. However, Miss Massey’s troop is anything but kind. One Massey member cuts off one of Christmas’ braids, while others relentlessly makes fun of Troop Zero’s members. They. Are. Ruthless.
Troop Zero is a beautiful underdog story that will captivate every member of your family, like it did mine. Each of us was cheering for Christmas and her troop of misfits—Smash, Anne-Claire, Hell-No Price, and Joseph—desperately wanting them to succeed. Themes of race, class, ability, gender, teamwork, science, loss, and friendship had us on the edge of our seats for the entire hour and thirty-seven minutes. The movie is relatable, reminding us of the struggle we each face. Do we choose blend in or stand out?
The Birdie Troop is led by the fabulous Miss Raylee (played by Viola Davis), an aspiring lawyer. She’s employed by Christmas’ father (played by comedian Jim Gaffigan). Miss Raylee becomes Christmas’ surrogate mother—a role she reluctantly claims. She initially resists becoming the Birdie Troop Zero leader, but eventually succumbs to the role, with plenty of cigarettes and side-eye glances to entertain us in every scene. She portrays badassery–and an IDGAF-attitude–in a child-appropriate way.
Each girl works hard to earn at least one badge to qualify for Jamboree—which is easier said than done. Anne-Claire hurls every time she gets nervous, Christmas pees her pants, Smash has quite a temper, Hell-No Price puts up her dukes at the drop of a hat, and Joseph—who loves to do hair and create cool outfits—deals with being called a “girl boy.” There’s comedic scenes—such as an epic food fight complete with a face full of sprinkles—but also heart-to-heart moments where we watch friendships blossom and bullies get put into their place.
I absolutely loved Troop Zero because it’s reminiscent of two of my favorite movies—The Secret Life of Bees and the 1990s classic Now and Then. There’s just enough sass and confidence to make it fun, such as Troop Zero’s adorable Jamboree performance, but not too much where you have to cover your kids’ eyes and ears.
My kids had plenty of questions after watching the film—and during it too. Interestingly, the movie takes place in the South in the 1970s, but it’s quite relevant to what children–and adults–are struggling with today. Over bowls of popcorn, we talked about why Christmas repeatedly pees her pants. This opened up the door to talk about grief and what it can do to us physically and emotionally. We also chatted about bullying, and the many ways it can appear from both adults and children. What can we do when we encounter a bully? What responsibilities do witnesses have?
They can remain bystanders, or they can take action. Perfect timing, because just this week my older daughters encountered a boy on the school bus who was yelling out, “Who wants to be in the gay club?” and laughing. His question–and laughter–made my kids uncomfortable, and we chose to bring it to the principal’s attention. We discussed how he was being a bully and mocking people who are gay.
— Jim Gaffigan (@JimGaffigan) January 24, 2020
We also had conversations about socioeconomics and privilege. Troop Zero struggled to come up with hundreds of dollars to have a chance at winning the Jamboree competition unlike their opposing troop. Christmas lives in a trailer park, a location that comes with loads of stereotypes.
The film doesn’t shy away from teaching us about gender diversity and inclusion either. Christmas thinks Miss Raylee’s eyelash curler is beyond weird. She much prefers to stomp around in her rainboots. Her lack of stereotypical feminine behavior, words, and dress earn her multiple comments from adults–mainly expressing concern for her. Christmas’ BFF Joseph joins the troop, earning his badge by giving women makeovers. Throughout the movie, he’s made fun of for being the only male on the troop. On a technicality, Christmas’ father has to step in as the troop’s leader and he’s also mocked for being the Birdie Mom.
Like any victorious family flick, Troop Zero gives us happy ending—though I won’t spoil it for you. The message of hope, perseverance, and self-confidence gives us the warm-and-fuzzies we love. A movie that makes you tear up one minute and laugh-out-loud the next? That’s something we can all get behind.