- on Thursday, 03 July 2014 16:32
- by Frank Wilkins
From its owl-eyed main character resembling an aluminum-girded Furby doll, to a nauseatingly unrelenting camera technique (you just THOUGHT the shaky-cam had claimed its last victim), there’s an aura of garish cheapness that permeates nearly every frame of Dave Green’s Earth to Echo. And that’s not even considering its embarrassing resemblances to Spielberg’s E.T. which, of course, is also plotted around a group of kids who bond with a cute extra-terrestrial visitor while attempting to help the little fellow find his way home.
That’s not to say there’s nothing new explored in Earth to Echo, however. There is. But, there’s a reason Spielberg didn’t incorporate hand-held camera shots into his sci-fi masterpiece, and for that same reason, the technique doesn’t work here. And let’s not even get into the film’s poster which features a young boy’s glowing finger lightly touching the alien creature, another shameless reference.
Green attempts to explain his camera technique with the idea that the story’s main characters have gotten together a year after the events that unfold on screen. What we see is their edited footage put together as the movie Earth to Echo. As expected, it always looks as if shot on cell phones or hand-held camcorder, with poor lighting, and with a character’s face often talking loudly into the camera. Sadly, this doesn't lend to the intended aura of authenticity. Instead, it just feels cheap and gimmicky as if shortcomings are being covered up. It’s one thing to cover for financial or other constraints with great storytelling and creative filming techniques. But in the case of Earth to Echo, the purposeful choice to incorporate shaky-cam was simply an ill-conceived one. And its story – from Henry Gayden – isn’t strong enough to make up for it.
As the film opens, we meet Tuck (Brian “Astro” Bradley, who some may remember from 2011’s short-lived X-Factor reality show), Munch (Reese Hartwig) and Alex (Teo Halm), three inseparable friends enjoying their last summer together. We learn their Nevada neighborhood is being uprooted for a highway project, and everyone is being forced by the government to move. But on the last night before saying goodbye, our three unlikely heroes embark on a bicycle journey into the desert to discover the origin of strange cell phone disturbances they suspect originate from outer space. With the camera strapped to one of the boy’s bike for most of the adventure, we bounce along for the ride as the picture nauseatingly jolts across the 50-foot cinema screen. Needless to say, it grows old quite quickly.
Trapped within a strange capsule resembling a burned-out bombshell casing, the boys discover a tiny metallic alien who speaks to them via a series of electronic beeps and squeaks. Once they learn of the tiny alien’s plight to return to his home planet, the boys spend the remainder of the evening traveling from location to location as we bounce along for the ride.
In borrowing from genre classics such as E.T., The Goonies, Wall-E, and Super 8, Earth to Echo hopes to carry similar weight in its story about saying goodbye and the importance of friendship. But it falls short in creating characters that we can really invest in. They’re nice enough kids and their good deed certainly comes from admirable intentions, but none of them seem like real kids, let alone the best of friends. Nor does the film leave us with any memorable moments that tug at genuine emotions. Anyone remember how they felt watching a heartbroken Drew Barrymore as Gertie? There’s nothing like that here.
MPAA Rating: PG for some action and peril, and mild language.
Runtime: 89 mins
Director: Dave Green
Writer: Henry Gayden
Cast: Teo Halm, Astro, Reese Hartwig
Genre: Family | Adventure | sci-fi
Tagline: No one will ever believe our story.
Memorable Movie Quote: "A couple of seconds ago, our phones went crazy."
Distributor: Relativity Media
Official Site: http://www.callhimecho.com/
Release Date: July 2, 2014
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available
Synopsis: Tuck, Munch and Alex are a trio of inseparable friends whose lives are about to change. Their neighborhood is being destroyed by a highway construction project that is forcing their families to move away. But just two days before they must part ways, the boys begin receiving a strange series of signals on their phones. Convinced something bigger is going on, they team up with another school friend, Emma, and set out to look for the source of their phone signals. What they discover is something beyond their wildest imaginations: a small alien who has become stranded on Earth. In need of their help, the four friends come together to protect the alien and help him find his way home. This journey, full of wonder and adventure, is their story, and their secret.
No details available.