Hey kids! Do you ever watch the films E.T., The Goonies, Super 8, and Batteries Not Included, but think: Watching all of these movies separately is so time-consuming! I wish someone would cram them all into one poorly made knockoff! Well, with Earth to Echo, your dreams have come true!
The best I can say about Earth to Echo is that the title character is cute, but that’s about it. The film is essentially a mash-up of every 1980s film starring children, including some other homage pictures—Super 8—but far more poorly made than any of those films. The story focuses on three friends who are being forced to move out of their Nevada neighborhood because a freeway is being put in. On their penultimate day together, their cellphones get scrambled and have mysterious images on them. They figure out the images make a map and they decide, on their last night together, to follow the map out into the desert. They discover an alien lifeform and work to help him get home, getting some help from the popular girl at school. Oh, and the entire film is told via the found-footage style, a gimmick that should have died after Chronicle stretched it to its breaking point. See, this film could have been decent, but the found footage aspect—not to mention the abysmal script—is what completely derails the movie.
Thanks to the character Tuck (Astro…yes, he’s listed in IMDB as Astro) recording everything, the audience is not so much seeing a story unfold as they are having the characters vomit the information at them. Tuck has a YouTube channel and the entire film is he and his friends explaining to the audience what’s going on. They should have called this film Earth to Exposition. So, while the filmmakers try to get the audience to care about the characters, it’s made impossible because we’re not experiencing the story with them, we’re just being told the story. Combine that last bit of filmmaking with the fact that the story is just ripped off from far superior films and you end up with one of the laziest films I’ve seen in a long time. Even the special effects aren’t that great. In one scene—one that’s partially in the trailer—some of the CGI looks like it came out of Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” video—that video was made in 1985.
All of this criticism would draw a huge shrug from the suits at Relativity and Disney—apparently, Disney produced the film, but sold the distribution rights to Relativity—because they are targeting this film solely at children and they have no respect for them, thinking they are only deserving of crap films. Take a look at all the films I listed in the opening of this review. Each of them appealed to all ages, not just children. That’s because they were well-made films. Earth to Echo is the antithesis of a well-made film.
The performances are fine for what this is—we’re not discovering any Dakota Fannings here. Teo Halm is photogenic enough to play Alex, but his performance is nothing special. Reese Hartwig has a few humorous moments as comic relief, Munch—really, they had to make his name that close to Chunk from Goonies? Astro—God help me—is a pretty charismatic kid and might be decent in something else, but it’s not this. Ella Wahlestedt as Emma, like Halm, is pretty for the camera, but her performance is just okay. I half-joked at the end of the film, “Starring, the producers’ children!” The adult performances are beyond generic.
Overall, Earth to Echo will only appeal to children and the least discerning of filmgoers. At best, this should have been a direct-to-video affair. You’re better off saving your money and staying home to watch the far-superior films I mentioned in the opening. Get your kids hooked on the classics instead of watching this dreck.
Earth to Echo is in theaters July 2, 2014