Kids movies seem to be monopolized these days by Disney with their numerous animated masterpieces acting as a beacon for families to flock to the theater. Yet there are a few studios outside of the enterprise that still dare to dream and break the mold. My review focuses on Relativity Media's latest production of Earth To Echo, a science fiction journey for the new age. Now from first trailers and a few reviews, the description is pretty much a new version of E.T. with less organic alien and more Wall-E. Yet I wanted to get a look myself at what this feature had to answer the question: Is it really just an E.T. knock off, or is there something more? What were my thoughts? Read on to find out.
In agreement with my fellow reviewers, I do agree that Echo has a lot of similarities to Spielberg's original work. The story in particular matches the classic tale of earthlings, in this case kids, stumbling upon an alien life form stranded on our majestic planet. It's goal? Merely to find it's way home and avoid harming humans in the process. From there though, the tale becomes a patchwork of references to other movies, whose qualities we haven't seen for some time. Now this takes away from the originality I will agree, but I was pleased with the integration. Movies today tend to forgo the art of story telling for the top of the line CGI and special effects, hoping the visuals and "action" will please the audience. Earth to Echo returns to what the classics do though, bringing about simplistic shots and sequences and focusing on the adventure. The simplistic journey of riding bikes into the unknown pays tribute to E.T., while the bonds of true friendship and enjoying the time of youth references The Goonies; both movies that are still in high demand to this day. One gets brought into the adventure from the first person perspective of video cameras, ala Cloverfield, adding further depth to the movie to bring you deeper into the tale.
Although simplistic and predictable, the adventure is fun and entertaining for kids and the kid at heart. It takes one back to the days of exploring the world around you, grabbing your toys and gadgets and creating quests from the mundane world. For reviewers like me, such adventure is the true magic of movies, and brings fun and enjoyment that modern films seem to lack these days. Packed into the adventure are some deeper morals, built around the characters' problems, which are the typical back-stories you see in most tales, i.e. neglect and abandonment issues. These morals though are very touching, and gave me goose bumps as the issues resolved themselves. Sure the presentation is a bit cheesy, overdramatized with just the right music to get the emotions going, but I still think it was well executed to drive the point home. Those looking for twists and turns are going to be disappointed in this film, as there are none present, which is pretty typical for a kids movie.
Of course with how much fun I had in the movie, there are some faults that older fans might get caught up on. First thing is the fact of the kid's leaving the house, which becomes completely unnoticed nor questioned by anyone. Such negligence is rather comical, but I guess necessary to allow for unrestricted access to the frontier. The second weakness comes in the fact that these kids manage to travel miles of open highway in the span of a few hours on just bicycles. Now we see this in the tour de France, but the mileage they cover takes days not hours. The convenient lack of cars on a major highway is something else that is a bit stretched as well, and when it is populated no one seems to have any concerns or hesitation to stop. A third weakness is how easy the kids were able to get in/break in to businesses and again the lack of questions or obstacles they had to face. Apparently everyone in this town are idiots because the kids were able to get away with felonies at the drop of a hat. As for the first person camera angle, it is much more stable than some of the films, but there are a few points where it gets dizzying, often when they are doing a panorama shot or fleeing from the cops. Finally comes Echo, the little robot is adorable, his squeaks and infantile design will met the hearts for most of the people coming to this film. While a bit of a knockoff of Wall-E's Eve, the little dude will most likely have action figures and stuffed toys coming soon. Unfortunately you don't see much of the little guy as the movie tends to focus on the boys and his outer shell than the actual robot. I assume they cut his time short, to save some money, but for a movie about a robot, well you expect a little more screen time for their hard work.
While Earth to Echo is not the most original movie, it takes a step back to the art of storytelling while maintaining some technological features. The kids they hired to act did a nice job, and all the other mentioned elements are combined to bring one into a fun adventure. Honestly, this may have been the first movie I've had fun seeing in a long time. While there are some stretches here and there, and their title star was lacking, I think this a great movie to see.