3 out of 5 stars (average)
In 1999, the world was introduced to “The Blair Witch Project”, a movie about a group of film study students who recorded everything they saw with a hand-held camera. The film received critical acclaim for its original approach to filming and ability to scare by not showing the audience the monster, but creating a high amount of suspense. Many years passed, and the “Paranormal Activity” franchise came to light with a similar effect on the public. However, those films progressively became overdone, and the found-footage genre went with it. Now, Relativity Media goes into the found footage genre again with “Earth To Echo”, a cute sci-fi family flick that, despite its small budget (and cast of unknowns), should entertain families.
The film follows three preteens, Tuck (Brian “Astro” Bradley), Munch (Reese Hartwig), and Alex (Teo Halm), who live in a neighborhood about to be torn down to make room for a highway. As the days count down, the trio come to terms with the fact that they will no longer live near each other. To help ease the situation, Tuck begins filming everything they do together to preserve their memories.
A few days before the move, the kids notice their cell phones are “barfing” (an odd image is appearing on the screens). They’ve asked everyone they can think of, and answers are nowhere to be found. Using the great and powerful internet, they determine that the image is a map leading to something far out in the desert. They decide to follow the map, which leads them to a cute little alien. After the initial “Oh God, it’s an alien” freak-out that all kids would go through, they realize that this alien comes in peace (a rarity for sci-fi movies), and is looking for his ship in order to go home. Unbeknownst to the kids, accepting this challenge will take them on a town wide adventure that will take them to a bar, a party, a barn, and a junkyard and even help them grow up a bit along the way.
“Earth To Echo” is a good film for families seeking a break from “Transformersesque” sci-fi movies (the type where action is more important than characters). The movie was loud at times, but I never became bored with the action, a rarity in this genre. The kid actors are exceptional because they feel real (they talk and react like real kids might in this situation). It’s always a small pleasure to see and hear kids in the movies acting like real kids instead of spoiled brats. Given the budget, the special effects look great, especially in the climax.
Audiences should know going in that this is a found-footage movie. The entire film is seen through a video camera, which means that some jerky camera movement is present, especially during bike riding scenes in the first 3rd of the film. I acquired a small headache during these thankfully brief sections, but it went away as I adjusted to the filming style, of which I am not a big fan. However, I cannot see this movie being filmed any other way and having the same effect as it did in its present state.
I do have one small complaint, and it’s not with the movie itself, but with its marketing. I was at a family reunion this week and had to endure numerous commercials (which seem to devolve every time I see them). Some of these commercials were for “Earth To Echo”, and they did not advertise the movie correctly. The ads make “Echo” look like a sappy kid’s movie, which it is not. My parents and sister found it inspiring, since the kids grew up a bit and stepped out of their comfort zones, but I thought it was a good sci-fi flick that didn’t ask you to think too hard. My pet peeve here is that more and more movie trailers miss the main thrust of their films. That said, I hope that the trailer for the upcoming “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie does apply to this rule, because at this point in the game, my hopes are very low for it.
I urge all to see this film. If you want realistic acting, a good story, and some well-placed humor, then “Earth To Echo” will surely entertain you.
Rated PG for Some Action And Peril, And Mild Language (Tuck says “Cr*p” a few times)