In the sort of “found footage” film, three young teens (played by Teo Halm, Brian “Astro” Bradley, and Reese Hartwig) each with various levels of spunk, come together in the final days before their Nevada-area neighborhood is to be destroyed by an impending freeway expansion. But just as the boys are planning their final goodbyes (and seemingly filming everything), something goes haywire with selected neighborhood cell phones.
In response, the three neighborhood pals decide to spend their final night together by adventuring into the darkness of their local desert to figure out what is causing all the cellular hubbub. Eventually, the guys come across a little lost being that they name “Echo” (in essence: a tiny, but giant-eyed, robotic owl-like creature created seemingly to exude cuteness in its beep-boop language), and then spend the rest of the sketchily written film finding Echo’s parts and avoiding authorities who are searching for the alien.
Although the film begins with a passably charming relationship between the three boys, character development drops off once Echo is found. The film soon dissolves into simply a look-and-find adventure as the boys use their co-opted phones to find scattered alien ship matter. Although a token girl (Ella Wahlestedt) is later thrown into the mix, she never adds much more to the dynamic or the plot.
Part “Goonies” and part “E.T.,” “Earth to Echo” aspires to be a film of Spielbergian epicness, where coming-of-age is magically aligned with heartwarming personal growth, but it falls fall short. At its core, the audience is never really tapped into the emotion of the characters, and we, ultimately, never come to care that much about the boys or Echo. No heartwarming heartlight ever ignites, no tears are shed. And, sadly, “Earth to Echo” never resonates. “Earth to Echo” is rated 2 of 5 stars.
As an aside, parents should be aware that the entire film is of the very shaky, hand-held camera variety. Anyone, especially parents themselves, who feel motion sickness at such films (a la “Blair Witch Project,” “Cloverfield,” “District 9”) should take caution as the movement can be very nausea-inducing for a select few.
“Earth to Echo” is rated “PG” for some action and peril, and mild language.
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