Genre: Adventure, Family, Sci-Fi
Directed by: Dave Green
Starring: Teo Halm, Astro, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt
When one looks back on an old movie from childhood, there comes a point when one laments, “They don’t make them like they used to.” Much like JJ Abrams’ Super 8, Earth To Echo is a film that fondly recalls those same suburban adventure movies from the 80s and attempts to update it for a new generation and proclaim, that in fact they do make them like they used to.
Unfortunately, despite it’s technological updating, Earth To Echo is a film that is so acutely aware of what went before, and tries so desperately hard to emulate its predecessors, that it ultimately becomes less of a nostalgic homage than a blatant derivative knock-off, albeit with camera phones.
The story takes places in a Nevada suburb, where young Tuck and his two best friends, foster kid Alex and geeky kid Munch (who likes to organize his ketchup), decide to spend one last night together before their neighbourhood is demolished to make way for a new freeway. So far, so Goonies.
After receiving strange signals on their phones, the intrepid trio venture off on their BMXs into the middle of nowhere where they encounter the strange cutesy metallic titular alien they affectionately dub Echo. Before you can say “shady government officials”, the group find themselves on the run as they attempt to find a way to send Echo home. So far, so ET.
So derivative in fact, of its older grey Spielberg cousin, even going so far as to lift exact story beats, it felt at times as if the makers of Earth To Echo forgot they were making their own movie. The found footage style, utilised here by Tuck as he chronicles the last night with a variety of camera devices, only hinders the movie rather than enhances or updates it.
As a result, the film zips along at a lightening quick pace, as our heroes bounce around between frenetic set piece to frenetic set piece, never giving us a moment to breathe or spend actual time with these characters beyond the basic traits they were introduced with. The camera never stops and the characters are never allowed to develop. Any moment they do have is quickly glossed over in favour of another samey zip-pop whizz bang moment, something that quickly becomes repetitive as the group repeat the same beats, going from pawn shop to seedy bar to high school house party.
Echo himself meanwhile, whilst cute with his big old owl shaped eyes, lacks any real personality to make him truly memorable beyond the fact that he’s an innocent little alien who needs to get home.
Perhaps if director Dave Green and writer Henry Gayden decided to jettison the found footage element and decided to stick with his characters a little longer, we might have had a more compelling and maybe more entertaining movie on our hands.
The film is not without its merit. The young cast are charming enough and do their best with what they have to work with, while the sense of loving nostalgia on display is endearing. It may be derivative and lack the edge of its Spielberg cousin, but it’s perfectly harmless entertainment, with enough flashy visuals to keep the younger viewers entertained.
But unfortunately Earth To Echo will only remind you of the fact that they really don’t make them like they used to.