Directed by: Dave Green
Premise: A group of kids discover a small alien who needs help and find themselves on the run from government officials.
What Works: In the mid-1980s the mega-success Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial led to a series of imitators like Flight of the Navigator, Little Monsters, and Mac and Me. Most of those films weren’t very good but these, as well as other movies like The Goonies and Explorers, were very popular with young viewers and told wholesome but exciting stories of youthful characters on adventures, usually encountering something magical in their backyard. As the youth of the 1980s have come of age and become filmmakers they’ve begun to make new version of the movies that influenced them such as Super 8 and Project Almanac. Earth to Echo is in the tradition of these kinds of movies. While it’s no E.T. it isn’t Mac and Me either and the movie is a fun adventure geared primarily at children and family audience. Although Hollywood is criticized for relying too much on escapist and circus movies, a lot of their output has been on PG-13 action pictures that are as violent as R-rated titles from a generation earlier. In that respect, Earth to Echo differentiates itself from a lot of other movies in the mainstream marketplace. It is unusual to have a feature film with kids as the leading characters and especially kids this young. All of the principle actors in Earth to Echo are convincing in their parts and each of them has a distinct role to play in the dynamics of their group. One of the frequent flaws in movies featuring young characters is that the filmmakers condescend to children or make their young characters too precocious. The filmmakers of Earth to Echo get the characterization of their young characters right. As a family friendly adventure, the film works because it sets the kids on an adventure in which the stakes are appropriately high and the kids have an effective camaraderie. They often have to work together and go out on a limb to save one another and in the process of helping this alien they learn to take responsibility for something greater than themselves. That gives their adventures some thematic weight.
What Doesn’t: Earth to Echo isn’t a great movie. An awful lot of this will be familiar to anyone who has seen E.T. and Super 8 or for that matter an episode of Scooby Doo. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises in the plotting and even for the kind of sci-fi adventure that this is, Earth to Echo strains its credibility in places. The premise of the movie is built around kids sneaking out of their homes and coordinating a lie to each of their parents. That kind of thing played convincingly when John Hughes was making movies but in the age of helicopter parenting, cell phones, and GPS technology it’s a little harder to believe. These kids are below driving age and get around on their bicycles and they cover a lot of ground in their twelve-hour adventure. At the risk of sounding repetitive, Earth to Echo is another movie that didn’t need to be told in the found footage format. This particular film does the gimmick better than many others but it still suffers from a lot of the same problems. Namely, it is just not credible that the kids would keep recording throughout all of the situations that they are put through. As a found footage movie, Earth to Echo also suffers from the restrictive point of view of the first person approach. Movies are generally cut together starting with a wide or medium establishing shot followed by close ups that provide coverage of the action. The found footage format does not always allow for establishing shots and so it is sometimes difficult to follow the screen direction.
DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, and a trailer.
Bottom Line: Earth to Echo is a fine family-friendly adventure. It’s no classic but the picture is sufficiently entertaining for both children and their parents.
Episode: #528 (February 8, 2015)