Movie Review - Earth to Echo

Yes, it's Chronicle (2012) meets E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982). It's a Nickelodeon matinee, not too dark and demented. It's a more millennial version, meaning it has to appeal to children who have smart phones and who regularly use Skype and post videos to YouTube or Vine, while telling the story of a group of prepubescent teenage boys who unite after discovering a tiny and cute alien that's trying to get home.

The problem with films like Chronicle and Paranormal Activity is the excuse that has to be contrived to explain why the characters are constantly videotaping everything, especially over the course of several days. This film takes place all in one night, so it's arguable with its protagonist being a gung-ho camera enthusiast. He owns a GoPro, a HD camcorder and spy-glasses. The alien uses smart phones to see and record video. The alien is mechanical in nature so he is able to compile all that video, so the found footage convention is believable.

The special effects are pretty seamless and feel pretty tangible. In fact, there's an effect with a semi-trailer that was more interesting than Optimus Prime in any of the Transformers movies.

There is a scene where the children talk to the alien, while it's still a still mechanical device and can only beep to communicate, which is ripped straight from Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. In it, the children are the ones doing most of the talking. They're cute and they do a good job of basically being kids. They remind me of the kids in 3 Ninjas (1992).

As such with JJ Abrams' Super 8, the young boys here are eclipsed by the young girl who's introduced. Abrams' film had Elle Fanning. This film has Ella Wahlestedt who plays Emma, affectionately referred to as "mannequin girl." Like with Fanning, Wahlestedt has to act like she's acting within the movie, and she blows everyone away.

Brian "Astro" Bradley, a former contestant on The X-Factor, plays Tuck, the young black teen who is the gung-ho camera enthusiast. He narrates the movie and he's the very extroverted and very confident, alpha male of the trio. Astro is in a lot of ways a mini-Will Smith.

Reese Hartwig plays Munch, an electronics genius, a bit of a geek who doesn't like lying to his mom and insists on bike helmets. He's comic relief for the most part. They give him a comedy bit of pretending to be his mom that was funny.

Teo Halm plays Alex, a foster kid with abandonment issues. He takes to the alien and befriends it more than the others. Alex becomes more bonded and attached to the alien. He's kind of like the Elliott of the movie. The writers, Henry Gayden with co-story by Andrew Panay, don't give Halm enough material to sell him as Elliott completely, but it's close.

I did appreciate how there was a focus on a black family in the first reel. The ending, while visually striking, does rip off Super 8. Director Dave Green must have really liked that movie.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 31 mins.


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