Close Encounters Phone Home: “Earth to Echo” Echoes Better Movies Past

Earth to Echo

Earth to Echo (Dave Green, 2014)

Are you a fan of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and/or E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? Did you enjoy director J.J. Abrams’s 2011 homage to the Spielberg canon, Super 8? Great! Unfortunately, Earth to Echo, which references the former and aspires to the latter, comes nowhere near the quality or thrills of any of them. Then again, it’s wholesome family fun, and if you’re choosing between this and Melissa McCarthy’s Tammy, choose this.

Made in the “found footage” genre, Earth to Echo follows three pre-teen boys (and, eventually, one girl), as they strike out for one last adventure before their families all move out of their Nevada housing development, slated to be cleared for freeway construction. Tuck (Astro from “The X Factor“) is the filmmaker of the bunch, constantly capturing the action through multiple cameras (which, conveniently, provide multiple angles). Newcomers Reese Hartwig and Teo Halm – as precocious tech guru Munch and foster kid Alex, respectively – plus Ella Wahlestedt (from “Army Wives“) – as poor little hot girl Emma – round out the cast. There are a whole lot of nondescript adults, as well, but the story lies squarely with this foursome. And, unfortunately, with Echo.

Echo, as you might guess from the E.T.-like poster, is an alien. He’s also, I will admit, very cute, since he’s been designed to look like a metallic toy owl. But he is not in anyway a compelling or believable character, beyond that cuteness. But he’s harmless, and I don’t want to appear overly cruel, so I’ll leave it at that.

Our kids head out to the desert on their adventure because of recurring cell-phone disruptions that they correctly interpret as pixelated maps. Curious (and eager to have one final night together), they jump on their bikes and ride deep into coyote territory, where they find the scared titular character in need of assistance. Being good children of Spielberg, they decide to help the little guy, and the rest of the story is eminently predictable (the found footage technique adds nothing to the storytelling). Lessons are learned, the good guys triumph, and friendship proves eternal. Actually, put like that, it seems like a great movie. Too bad we’ve already seen it a hundred times.

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