A group of kids befriend an alien life-form and seek to help get him home in Earth to Echo. Is this new sci-fi adventure film fun for the whole family, or is it a disappointment?
Directed By: Dave Green Written By: Henry Gayden Runtime: 91 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated PG
Alex - Teo Halm Tuck - Brian Bradley Munch - Reese Hartwig Emma - Ella Wahlestedt Dr. Lawrence Madsen - Jason Gray-Stanford
Imagine E.T. being rebooted with a lower budget and a found footage premise. Basically, that is an exact description of Relativity’s new sci-fi family adventure film, Earth to Echo. Earth to Echo is innocuous and watchable, but ultimately banal and uninspiring. The new film is utterly predictable. It follows all the main beats of a story such as E.T. in about 90 minutes and sends the audience home happy. There are no surprises. There is nothing especially exceptional, but it could still play well as a solid passing diversion for kids and family.
A group of friends, Alex (Halm), Tuck (Bradley), and Munch (Hartwig), are lamenting about a corporation taking over their small town to complete a highway project. The entire community will soon have to move, and the best friends will have to start over in new communities. The boys soon find strange messages sent to their phones. Munch and Tuck figure out that the messages are coordinates to a remote location outside town. On their last night together, the kids decide to investigate the site, and Tuck brings a bunch of cameras to film everything they discover.
The boys discover part of a friendly, cybernetic and sentient alien being, whom the group eventually decides to name Echo (due to the echo-like tones he emits for his language). With some sinister government guys crawling around the area, Alex, Tuck, and Munch realize that the workers who are there to destroy the town are actually there to find Echo. The group makes a pact to help Echo find his remaining parts and keys to his spaceship, so he can return home.
So that is the gist of the plot. It is simple and easy to understand. The plot is innocuous and inoffensive. Honestly, Earth to Echo is quick, disposable fair. It is uncomplicated and watchable, but it is by no means exceptional. It is essentially a modern-day remake of E.T., and on that level some parents and kids might enjoy it. The story lacks the imagination and creativity of, say Flight of the Navigator.
To their credit, the main young actors are all well cast. They did well in their roles and for the most part, were not annoying. The ultimate incorporation of the female character Emma (Wahlestedt) into the group was rather cliché, but the actors sell it through their performances. They all seem reasonably talented and I could see them getting further work throughout their advancing teens.
The Echo creature has an interesting design, but he does not really do much. We do not really spend enough time with Echo to really like him or learn more about him. The plot is very rushed and quick. There are some impressive visuals thrown in here and there, which looked especially good considering the film is, more than likely, low budget.
One of my biggest problems with Earth to Echo comes from the found footage premise. It forces the movie to have a jarring, awkward style and look that has to be maintained through the entire narrative. This means lots of annoying shaky-cam and contrived reasoning for continuing to shoot footage. Tuck is an amateur filmmaker, so he has decided to shoot everything 24/7. It is nonsensical. He always seems to have 20 different cameras available or hidden camera spyglasses. On one hand, I can see why filmmakers opt for this style. It can create a more visceral feeling with the narrative. It probably makes the movie a lot cheaper, quicker, and easier to shoot. At the same time, while sitting and watching the movie, I kept imagining how scenes would have looked so much better without the forced gimmick. A chase scene through suburban backyards was so much more irritating to watch when shot in this haphazard fashion.
The movie opens in a very dull manner. It starts with music, a type of electric guitar riff that I have heard in the beginning of countless movies. Earth to Echo lacks is that extra pop, a sense of wonder and whimsy that more classic films in this genre share. Earth to Echo is a watchable diversion, but not much else.
The 411: Earth to Echo could work as a bargain matinee show for the family. Other than that, it does not really bring anything to the table. There are some impressive visuals considering the budget, and the actors are well cast. I am just really over the found footage style, which really did this film no favors in my opinion.