Review: Earth to Echo
PLOT: Right before they are separated - thanks to their suburban neighborhood being torn down - a group of best pals go on an adventure of a lifetime. After they discover a series of strange messages on their cell phones, the teens head out looking for something possibly otherworldly, and definitely life-changing.
REVIEW: One of the most traumatic periods in childhood is when you or your best friends move away. Oftentimes it is the first sense of real loss and it can be especially devastating for a young mind. In the new sci-fi, found footage feature EARTH TO ECHO, this theme is explored in a sweetly charming way. Part STAND BY ME with *BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED, and a huge chunk of E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL, this well cast story maintains a youthful energy while still exploring very familiar territory. Thankfully, in spite of a modest budget, director Dave Green and screenwriter Henry Gayden create something to enjoy for those willing to entertain in its farfetched magic.
Munch (Reese Hartwig), Alex (Teo Halm) and Tuck (Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley) are best of friends. They have found a kind of bond that is irreplaceable. However, when their families are all forced to move due to a freeway being built, they face the fear of saying goodbye to each other. With one last attempt to celebrate their camaraderie before they go their separate ways, they head out on one last adventure. This last hurrah is inspired by a number of strange messages they are receiving on their cell phones. Soon, they pack up their bicycles, load up the video cameras and lie to the parents and head out on an epic quest to discover the mystery.
The key factor here is the marvelous chemistry between the three young actors, as well as a neighboring girl named Emma (Elle Wahlestedt) who forces herself into the adventure – not that the boys are complaining that much. It is easy to believe that these very different characters have developed this special bond. Even factoring in that they always have the damn cameras on, it is not incomprehensible that they’d be posting their story on YouTube. These likable actors are especially charismatic, and even when the story feels a bit overly sentimental, they still make it work. What a delightful group of kids they are.
What Green accomplishes here is a major achievement with what little he had to work with. When the group ultimately do discover a tiny – and adorable – alien life form, the effects are impressive. As the little robotic fella feeds off of a variety of electronic equipment and gains more power, it is shockingly good, visually speaking. This is a rare thing in not only small budget features, but found footage as well. In the final few acts when their little friend gets closer to his goal – you guessed it, he wants to go home – the Spielberg inspired ending offers a few cheer worthy moments. This is especially true for the young audiences that may not have witnessed E.T. yet.
EARTH TO ECHO may be a better than expected feature, yet the story and script ask a lot from its audience. The fact that these kids are able to make a sixteen-mile bike trip (and back) to the desert in just a few hours, or they somehow manage to rob a number of business’ looking for parts is a lot to take in. And like a lot of movies targeted towards a younger audience, the parents are uselessly and utterly dim. To be fair however, this comes across as a modern day tall tale where the kids are the heroes, and who really cares what the rest of the family was up to.
While it may borrow heavily from other films, EARTH TO ECHO is an extremely heartfelt little flick with better than its budget effects. The director handles the visuals with childlike wonder and it features a remarkably amiable young cast. This is a sweet little movie. It may not be mind-blowing or even thought-provoking, but it is near impossible to not be taken in by little Echo and his group of human friends.