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'Earth to Echo': Found footage finds E.T.

Earth to Echo

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We brought our kids to see “Earth to Echo” with very low expectations. We were pleasantly surprised to discover what may well be one of the first kid-friendly “found footage” sci-fi films.

Stills from Earth to Echo.
Disney

“Earth to Echo” is about three friends who are about to move. There’s Munch (Reese Hartwig), the bumbling nerd; Tuck (Brian Bradley), the leader of the group, and Alex (Teo Halm), the orphan loner. Narrated by Tuck, there is a sense of a magical moment, that things will never be the same again; what's different is that our protagonists have enough wisdom to know that they should be enjoying it while they can.

They are given an opportunity to have one last adventure together when a mysterious crashed object causes everyone’s cell phones to go nuts. As it turns out, the object is an owl-like alien robot they nickname Echo, whose appearance evokes Bubo from the original “Clash of the Titans.” The cell phone gibberish is actually a series of maps, and the three fast friends set off on a series of quests to help assemble Echo’s spaceship so he can return home. All along the way they are pursued by nefarious government agents and other well-meaning adults who just don’t get it.

“Earth to Echo” follows “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial” to a “T”: kids work together to save an alien while hiding it from adults, the obligatory coming of age moment when a crush (Ella Wahlestedt) gets involved, and the loss of innocence that comes with knowing you will never see some people again. “Earth to Echo” does a surprisingly good job capturing the spirit that J.J. Abrams tried so hard to recreate with “Super 8.” But where “Super 8” felt artificial, “Earth to Echo” isn’t afraid to make its characters cry, separate them, intimidate them, and make them earn their emotional stripes. “Earth to Echo” is surprisingly heartwarming despite its frequent use of the found footage genre.

If anything, the triumph of a film like this is that it proves kids of today are no different than kids in the seventies. And that’s a message that withstands camera phones, social media, and the test of time.

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