Kyle J. Steenblik

Earth to Echo is charming for children

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earthtoecho_1280Earth to Echo is not a typical children’s science fiction movie.  A unique perspective and presentation of a story comprised of multiple familiar elements.  The all too familiar elements to the film are a significant weakness in an otherwise strong film.  The similarities to films such as E.T., Super 8, Goonies, and Stand By Me stood out the most to me.  Where there are similarities, there are also enough unique presentation for a new and different audience that I found them endearing.

Earth to Echo is a film cleverly made for kids “by kids”.  set up as an amateur documentary film by three middle school aged boys, there is no third person perspective.  Everything is first person, filmed by one of the primary characters.  It’s a growing format, the “found footage” but the technique has been restricted for the most part to the horror genera, this is the first time I know of that it has been used in a film for children.  I have also never seen it done better.  I, as well as my 8-year-old daughter, was very pleased with this film.  It actually proved to be among the first films to challenge her, not just entertain her.  She was required to process a film that was far from the traditional entertainment for children.  It had her genuinely captivated and concerned.  I’ve no doubt this is a film that will stick with her for a very long time.

Tuck (Brian “Astro” Bradley), Munch (Reese C. Hartwig) and Alex (Teo Halm) are best friends, whose neighborhood is about to be demolished for a new freeway interchange.  Days before they all have to move away from their homes something very strange happens.  Their phones start misbehaving in a very unusual manner.  Once Munch, a technological prodigy, identifies a distinct pattern on the phones, the three boys decide to follow the signal on one last adventure.  What they find is almost unbelievable, it is good Tuck decided to film the entire expedition.  Now they have proof that they found a small alien, stranded on earth, desperate for help to rebuild his spaceship, and return home.

While the plot devices are simplified, and sometimes overly convenient the result is no less endearing and genuine.  Watching my daughter, I recalled the distant memories of watching E.T. for the first time.  Honestly, I couldn’t think of a higher compliment for first time feature-film director Dave Green, and writer Henry Gayden.  As high a compliment I just paid those two, the film is not without its faults.  For only 90 minutes, the film has a high number of doldrums, and the quirky editing borders on becoming too cheesy and gimmicky.  I do understand the film is intended to look and feel like it was made by a young teenage boy, and it does, it’s as clever, as it is frustrating, as it is hilarious, and it is just slightly overused.  Finally, basic plot devices, such as including romantic female character into the story feel too contrived.  This weak point in the film is tragic.  Overall, the film did not underestimate the target audience, until this point.  I wouldn’t have removed the character, but I felt like she needed to be more established and filled out as a character.  With a primary cast of four young teenagers, they were surprisingly well developed, and performed.  I just wish Ella Wahlestedt didn’t feel like an afterthought in the story.  These four young performers were remarkably enjoyable to watch, I hope to see them continue to grow in their respective careers on screen.

Over all my adult perspective on this film is meaningless, regardless of how much I enjoyed it.  This is a film that will spark the imaginations of children, and make them wish to meet a friendly alien.  3.5 out of 5.

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