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Too Many Recycled Parts Clutter Earth to Echo

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2014 7 Jul
  • COMMENTS
Too Many Recycled Parts Clutter <i>Earth to Echo</i>

DVD Release Date: October 21, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: July 2, 2014
Rating: PG (for some action and peril, and mild language)
Genre: Adventure/Science Fiction
Run Time: 89 min.
Director: Dave Green
Cast: Teo Halm, Astro, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt, Jason Gray-Stanford, Cassius Willis, Sonya Leslie, Kerry O’Malley

From the not-so-subtle references on the movie's poster to the basic plotline where a bunch of misfits on bikes help a cute alien find its way home, Earth to Echo is lobbying pretty aggressively for the title of "E.T. for the iPhone Generation." But considering how haphazard the execution is, Steven Spielberg is probably shaking his head somewhere. At least he knows his legacy isn't in danger.

To be fair, every generation deserves an iconic movie where a kid sees his/her peers save the day, but this just isn't that film. When something is hoping to be E.T. or The Goonies or even Super 8, the bar is already set impossibly high. But even if one lowers his/her expectations, Earth to Echo still makes it difficult to award points for trying. Hampered by too many recycled parts and nothing resembling cohesive plotting or authentic character development, Earth to Echo also feels much longer than 89 minutes—and not in a good way.

What would've helped tremendously is if Tuck (X Factor contestant Brian "Astro" Bradley), Munch (Reese Hartwig) and Alex (Teo Halm) actually felt like best friends. Maybe it's the sheer lack of previous acting credits between them or the dialogue which is too self consciously cute to actually be believable, but it's difficult to imagine these kids hanging out, let alone being so upset about their "last night together."

Turns out these boys' homes are on the verge of being demolished to make room for a new highway. But rather than focus on, say, packing, Tuck, Munch and Alex simply can't shake the feeling that something strange, otherworldly even, is happening in their neighborhood.

For one thing, their ever-present phones are bombarded with odd interference signals, and as they try and make sense of the beeps and bleeps, a mysterious map appears out of nowhere. Rather than ask for the input of any living, breathing adults, however, these pre-teens take matters into their own hands and make a plan that involves a few lies and a late-night biking expedition twenty-some miles from home. Even if the mission is a bust, Tuck, an aspiring filmmaker, knows it'll make a good story nonetheless.

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Naturally, as in many movies of this ilk, the parents are completely clueless. These grown-ups are so wrapped up in what they're doing, they barely offer a grunt when their sons say they're spending the night at so-and-so's house. Tuck, Munch and Alex don't ask so much as inform them of what's happening, which is pretty curious considering their age.

And that's really only the beginning of the eyebrow-raising behavior in Earth to Echo. As the boys bike into the desert in the dark of night, coyotes howling, it's not always easy suspending disbelief about how many bad things could happen. But being the clever kids we're constantly told they are, Tuck, Munch and Alex locate the exact spot in the Mojave Desert that matches the map on their phones. It's then, naturally, when their curiosity goes into overdrive as they unearth a metallic capsule that houses a creature that looks like a cross between Wall-E and an owlet.

After a lengthy discussion of what to name the alien (they eventually decide on Echo) and an exhaustive game of 20 Questions, the next step involves a scavenger hunt for the rest of Echo's parts. Never believing Echo could be dangerous, just that he wants to go home, Tuck, Munch and Alex—now teamed with Emma (Ella Wahlestedt), who they meet when they break into her house (long story)—will stop at nothing to ensure Echo’s safety.

And by "stop at nothing" I mean: breaking and entering... driving a car without a license... stealing a truck and driving it without a license... crashing a shady-looking pawn shop... wandering through a bar... running away from some semi-ominous construction workers in disguise who also want Echo. It's all in the name of adventure in Earth to Echo, a shallow slog of a movie that never delivers the magic, fun or creativity of all the films it aspires to be.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Alex, Tuck, Munch and Emma crash a party where older teens are drinking. They also wind up at a bar and try to look old enough to be there (it fails, but a convincing lie serves their purposes well enough).
  • Language/Profanity: "Holy balls!" A single use of sh--, plus multiple exclamations of God's name.
  • Sex/Nudity: Older teenagers are shown kissing at a party. Tuck claims to have kissed Emma (but he didn't). Some mild flirtation between Alex and Emma.
  • Violence: In what's not so much violence but the "some action and peril" described in the rating, the boys ride their bikes 20+ miles from home at night (coyotes are howling for dramatic effect). Munch hops into the bed of a moving truck and is questioned by a guy disguised as a construction worker (Munch admits he didn’t think it through and cries while he makes a "goodbye" video for his friends). When Echo is close to any of his missing parts, the parts wreak havoc on anything in their path. Both Alex and Tuck give driving without a license a try (Tuck hits a couple of garbage cans but they both stay on the road, despite no previous experience).

Publication date: July 2, 2014