Starring: Teo Halm, Brian “Astro” Bradley, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt.
Rated: PG. Adventure/Family/Sci-Fi. Running Time: 1 hour and 29 minutes.
Prior to seeing this flick I had mixed feelings. Ross had described it to me as a ‘modern day E.T.’ and then at boot camp someone told me this was one of those “shaky handheld camcorder” films. Needless to say the latter news was not well received, as I have to admit I am not a big fan of this type of cinematography. And I don’t readily back remakes either. But we were giving Earth to Echo a chance either way, as it was one of the only movies we could view with Ethan that we hadn’t yet seen. ETE is reminiscent of The Goonies and of course the similarly named, aforementioned, big screen alien created by Mr. Spielberg. But it also has some genuine charm and likeability all its own. The story centers around three young boys who are as tight as can be, but they’re facing tough realities and are fast approaching the time when they’ll have to move far from their cherished homes and best friends. They begin taping in hopes to halt construction of a freeway that will literally trample their neighborhood. Tuck (Astro) films everything and posts their cause all over YouTube in protest. Eventually you get the feeling that they have accepted the move, but that they plan on making their last night in the old stomping grounds count. Their plan for the night starts to take shape as the boys begin investigating what they refer to as “phone barf”. Munch (Hartwig) realizes that the “phone barf” is actually a map and the adventure ensues.
E.T meets The Goonies meets Stand By Me, shot in the annoying style made famous by The Blair Witch Project and starring a cast of unknowns; Earth To Echo had every right to suck horribly or at the least be a worn out retread. It didn’t, and it wasn’t. The chemistry between the three boys on their quest to help Echo is what makes the film work. Halm, Astro (seriously though, come on man!) and Hartwig “feel” like true friends, complete with the camaraderie, insults, lies, hard truths and always having each others’ backs, that come with the real thing. The same ingredient that all of the classics listed above had as well. I’m not saying that ETE belongs in the same category with those movies, but it does have it’s own charm and some cutting edge special effects that had me “wowing” from my seat!
The effects are certainly worth a mention. And I agree that it won’t be stowed away with all of the friendship classics we’ve covered. But I had low expectations going in and it kind of surprised me; which I suppose is always better than that feeling of expecting great things and being horribly disappointed. ETE had some heart behind it and concisely wrapped up its story with a touching lesson about long distance friendships. Something I’ve come to know very well since the best friends I’ve accumulated over many years are spread throughout the entire country…or World. And the important message they are trying to share is that “distance is a state of mind”, as Alex so clearly states in the final scene. And I can vouch for that…it really is.
Echo is not of this Earth, but unlike his predecessor, he doesn’t phone home he phones the boys. I’ve lauded their chemistry but forgot to mention Ella Wahlestedt, she arrives late to the party but injects a much needed dose of teen estrogen and moxie, right when it was needed. The friendship and shared adventure of the four kids is certainly the heart of ETE, but the technology age and tech savvy-ness of all involved, is clearly second billing. It’s no secret we’re living in an exciting new world, but the ease in which these kids wield power and knowledge through their phones, cameras and computers is impressive. Honestly most parents out there, yours truly included, get a glimpse into that world everyday. It really makes you wonder, “what’s next?” One can only imagine. Earth To Echo is polished and glimmering, perfect for 2014.
Maria’s Rating: 3 Gummy Bears out of 5.
Ross’ Rating: 3.5 Gummies.