Synopsis: In Relativity’s PG summer family adventure movie, Tuck, Munch and Alex are a trio of inseparable friends whose lives are about to change. Their neighborhood is being destroyed by a highway construction project that is forcing their families to move away. But just two days before they must part ways, the boys begin receiving a strange series of signals on their phones. Convinced something bigger is going on, they team up with another school friend, Emma, and set out to look for the source of their phone signals. What they discover is something beyond their wildest imaginations: a small alien who has become stranded on Earth. In need of their help, the four friends come together to protect the alien and help him find his way home. This journey, full of wonder and adventure, is their story, and their secret.
Release Date: July 2, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Children and Family
In the eighties, there were a handful of films that defined the generation of kids who grew up watching them. Movies like E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, The Goonies, and Stand by Me gave the children of the day characters to which they could relate without the films seeming like children’s movies. The modern generation hasn’t really had any films that have been successful at that. Super 8 tried to fill the void, but wasn’t quite the movie for which kids were waiting. Unfortunately, Earth to Echo isn’t that movie, either.
Earth to Echo is the story of three friends – Tuck (“The X Factor” contestant Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley), Alex (Bukowski‘s Teo Halm), and Munch (Reese Hartwig from Crazy Eyes) – whose houses are being demolished in order for the city to build a new freeway. Knowing that their time together in the same neighborhood is short, the boys plan a last adventure together; Alex’s cell phone has been sending him a strange map, and the guys decide to follow it, riding their bikes out into the desert until they find out where the map leads. When they reach the end of the trail, the boys locate a strange metal piece that, when opened, reveals a little robotic alien whom they quickly name Echo. Communicating through audible beeps and by sending more maps to their phones, Echo has the guys take him around the town so that he can pick up pieces of his disabled spaceship. Along the way, however, the group discovers that they are not the only ones who know about Echo; a bunch of thugs posing as construction workers are looking for the alien, too, and their intentions are not entirely wholesome.
Earth to Echo is the brainchild of director Dave Green and screenwriter Henry Gayden, the guys behind the “Zombie Roadkill” television shorts. The film is the feature length debut from both of them, and it’s a good first effort. The film is slick and well-made, and it captures a bit of the children-as-heroes-adults-as-villains spirit of the classic Amblin movies. However, it does have issues that keep it from being put on the same pedestal.
No matter how likeable they are (and they are likeable), the characters in Earth to Echo don’t communicate the kind of heart that they should. When E.T. almost dies, there’s not a dry eye in the house; when Echo goes through a similar ordeal, the audience doesn’t feel anything but curiosity. Another problem is in the way that Earth to Echo spoon feeds exposition to the viewer, vocalizing everything in a “did you get that” kind of way, not relying at all on subtlety or subtext. Above all, the plot runs out of steam well before the film is ready to end, almost as if Gayden got as tired of writing as the viewer gets of watching. The concept of the film, as contrived as it is, is fun and interesting, but the finished film just doesn’t live up to its promise.
If Earth to Echo had come out before E.T., it would have probably been a smash hit. Those who are unfamiliar with Spielberg’s blockbuster will be suitably impressed, but those who are in the know will recognize just how derivative it is. It basically lifts the plot of E.T. point by point, only stepping away to give a nod and a wink to Stand by Me, Weird Science, or some other coming-of-age movie. The target audience – kids – will enjoy it, but won’t remember it for too long. Their parents will just want to go home and show them E.T.. And, hopefully, they do.
Director Dave Green made the most out of his chance to make a big-time sci-fi movie; his direction is one of the strongest aspects of Earth to Echo. The film is presented in the ever-popular found-footage style of filmmaking, with the audience seeing everything through the camera lenses of aspiring filmmaker Tuck. There is never a feeling that the film is pretending to be a real documentary, only the sensation of joining the kids on their adventure. It’s actually a very creative way to tell the story, and it works well. The rough camera work comes together with the seamless computer generated effects to create a visually compelling film. Of course, the kids do a little too much talking when they should be silent, but that goes along with the lack of subtext in the film. The first-person-shooter narrative style is one of the things that sets Earth to Echo apart from its class.
Another thing that Green gets right is his choice to use virtually unknown actors. The young cast members are all fresh faced and new to audiences – the highest profile actor is probably Astro (and who watches “The X Factor” anyway?) – and that fact adds to the authenticity and realism of the film. Green may have been able to secure more talented leads if he explored more options, but that would have risked taking the viewer out of the moment by having them see a recognizable face in what is purported to be a found-footage film. The rookie actors may not be able to connect with the audience as well as the seasoned vets, but the new kids in Earth to Echo have a sense of genuineness to them that can’t be faked.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Dave Green
- Screenwriter(s): Henry Gayden
- Cast: Teo Halm (Alex)Astro (Tuck)Reese Hartwig (Munch) Ella Wahlesstedt (Emma)Cassius Williams (Calvin Simms)Jason Gray-Stanford (Dr. Lawrence Madsen)
- Editor(s): Carsten Kurpanek
- Cinematographer: Maxime Alexandre
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Jospeh Trapanese
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA