Earth to Echo (Relativity)
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
Starring Teo Halm, Brian 'Astro' Bradley, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt, Jason Gray-Stanford, Alga Smith, Cassius Willis, Sonya Leslie, Kerry O'Malley, Virginia Louise Smith, Peter Mackenzie, Valerie Wildman, Roger Hewlett, Mary Pat Gleason.
Directed by David Green
Written by Henry Gayden and Andrew Panay.
Growing up is hard to do. It can be even harder when it seems the world and universe conspire to strip away your home and friends. Stephen Spielberg captured the trials of childhood and encounters with beings from another planet in ET (1982). J.J. Abrams picked up the torch with the underappreciated Super 8 in 2011. In between, there were a lot of pretenders that came up way short (Mac and Me, Flight of the Navigator, I am Number Four, etc.) The latest kid/alien adventure is Earth to Echo, the story of a group of kids facing the destruction of their town and an encounter with a cute little alien.
The story is told through the narration of Tuck (Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley), who chronicles the pending destruction of the Nevada town where he and his best pals Alex and Munch (Teo Halm and Reese Hartwig) live. The town is apparently being bulldozed to make way for a freeway. On the eve of the big move, a mysterious signal invades some of the boys’ smartphones, sending a message that looks like some sort of map. On their last night together, the boys take off to follow the signal into the desert. They also pick up Emma (Ella Wahlsestadt), the cutest girl in their middle school to tag along.
The signal leads the group to a metallic object that comes to life as the boys follow the map. Eventually the object opens up into a robotic owl-like creature they name “Echo.”
As the band of kids get Echo closer to its strewn metal parts, they discover that a secret government agency (posing as the freeway construction company) is also after Echo, and that the whole town demolition is really a front to uncover an alien spaceship that crash landed on Earth years ago. Alex, Tuck, Munch and Emma must race to save Echo before the evil government guys ruin everything.
If this plot sounds a little overused, that’s because - it is. Earth to Echo is a tableau of all the ET clichés, from the evil shadow government guys to the kid romance, to the band of outsider children who save the helpless alien. The movie also stars a lot of actors no one has ever heard of. That would be okay if they were really talented and were working with a talented director (i.e. Spielberg and the cast of E.T.). The bad news for Earth to Echo is that no one with that kind of talent is even remotely connected with the movie.
If the less-than-original story and low-end talent weren’t enough to keep you away from Earth to Echo, the awful “found footage” cinematography will. Sincerely…please, please, Hollywood – stop making movies with entire narratives that just “happened” to be captured on smartphones, video cameras and security footage. Not only does it give you motion sickness, it insults one’s intelligence by suggesting that some kid’s “selfie” video can fill 89 minutes of screen time.
Some preteens might enjoy Earth to Echo, but anyone younger than 10 or older than 13 will not.