Mark Reviews Movies

Earth to Echo


1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Dave Green

Cast: Brian "Astro" Bradley, Teo Halm, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt, Jason Gray-Stanford

MPAA Rating: PG (for some action and peril, and mild language)

Running Time: 1:31

Release Date: 7/2/14

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Review by Mark Dujsik | July 1, 2014

I am not yet a parent, but when I become one, I like to imagine that—even with my protective instincts—I will not be a buzzkill. After all, a child's sense of adventure is something to be nurtured. Even so, there was one thought that kept creeping into mind while watching Earth to Echo: These kids really need to go home, already; they're going to get hurt or go missing or worse. The movie is an ode to child self-endangerment.

Is the movie reckless in its depiction of a group of pre-teens who decide to ride their bikes into the desert in the middle of the night without telling anyone—including their parents—where they are going, in order to follow a mysterious map that has been transmitted to one of their cell phones from an unknown source? That is a judgment best left to parents, but I lean toward a definitive answer: Yes, it most certainly is.

Perhaps it's because the movie presents itself as reality. Here we have three best friends. Tuck (Brian "Astro" Bradley) is an aspiring filmmaker who documents the happenings—no matter how seemingly insignificant or tedious those things may be—of his life and the lives of his friends Alex (Teo Halm) and "Munch" (Reese Hartwig).

Director Dave Green and screenwriter Henry Gayden frame the movie as a Tuck production, complete with super-shaky handheld camerawork and recordings of the kid's computer screen. In this way, Tuck can have credits roll in a word processor, switch from one relevant video clip to another, and use a satellite map from a website to show the boys' progress on their adventure. It's an intriguing technique for a little while, with "a little while" defined as the amount of time it takes for the plot to start. At that point, the wild camera moves and constant narration become a nuisance.

The boys' small Nevada town is about to be demolished in order to accommodate a new highway, and in the days leading up to their families' moving to different parts of the country, there is some kind of mysterious electrical interference occurring in Alex' backyard. The signal forms an image on his cell phone, and the boys discover that the picture lines up perfectly with a map of the Mojave Desert. They decide to spend their last night together finding out what's at the spot (This is a really bad idea, guys; do you hear those coyotes howling?).

What is at the spot in the desert is a metallic capsule (Don't touch it, boys; you don't know where it's been or if it's even safe), and inside it is a tiny little creature from another world that the boys name "Echo." It's a metal, owl-like being with bright blue eyes and an ability to hover, and that's about the extent of any kind of personality that Green and Gayden lend the alien. It seems that they believe we will have some natural connection to the thing based solely on its adorability (Yes, it's cute, guys, but some people think lions are cute, too).

Echo sends the kids on a scavenger hunt to find the missing pieces to its body so that it can return to its spaceship and go home. In a plot that feels like it suffers from attention deficit disorder, the kids go from one location to another, seeking the parts of Echo's body. When they arrive, the missing piece explodes across the area, smashing anything in its path. They go to a pawn shop (Seriously, kids, just go home; this is no place for youngsters at 3 a.m.), and the piece flies around the store smashing items. Emma (Ella Wahlestedt), a classmate, tags along with the boys after they sneak into her home (Kids, you're now performing a criminal act, and your parents still don't know where you are) and then into her bedroom (Ok, boys, this is going way too far), where another piece starts careening around the room.

We have no reason to care if success comes to a trio of boys who spend a long night doing really dumb things with no rational or emotional reason, and we have even less reason to care if a cute, enabling alien gets to fulfill its cliché. Earth to Echo is repetitive, bland, and irresponsible (And you boys are grounded).

Copyright © 2014 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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