Director: Dave Green Writers: Henry Gayden Cast: Teo Halm, Astro, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt Runtime: 91 min Rating: PG
The summer months always provide children with interesting features to watch in the cinema. Earth to Echo brings a fun and wholesome adventure that explores friendship and perseverance. The film is very reminiscent of the 2011 movie Super 8, as it also explores children being in contact with an alien creature. However, it provides the classic story with a special twist that gives it its own value and voice.
Tuck (Astro), Alex (Teo Halm), and Munch (Reese Hartwig) are three friends who after having known each other their whole lives have to be separated due to their neighborhood being necessary for the construction of a highway. Soon after construction begins, the boys start receiving strange messages on their phones, which quickly spark their curiosity. Determined to stop the construction of the highway, they set off to find something that will incriminate the constructors and thus stop the project. They never expected to find Echo, a strange being who needs help to get back home. The three kids will help Echo recover his ship, while trying to escape from the prying adults who have plans of their own for Echo.
I am always hesitant to watch movies starring children because it is often possible to notice how awkward or uncomfortable they are with the camera, not to mention that they often lack when delivering emotional lines. However, I found the three main characters of Earth to Echo to be played quite well by the young stars, and I particularly enjoyed how each character had a very distinct personality and tastes, which provides variety for any of the young audience watching and the possibility for them to relate to the film even further.
Aside from a few minor instances, the special effects of the film were quite impressive. Although Echo’s design is cute and caricature-like he does seem like a tangible entity rather than a superimposed animation. Echo is certainly appealing enough to become a highly recognizable image, and it is refreshing to see an alien with such an amicable appearance, something that will certainly appease parents worried that the entity might scare children. I also particularly enjoyed the way the film incorporates social media and technology as a very important part of the plot, which instantly made me think of how much film has changed, and how films dedicated to young audiences today incorporate aspects like these more and more. Rather than take from the plot it creates an interesting dynamic in which the kids utilize these resources in a helpful manner. I do have to mention, however, that due to the fact that most of the contact with Echo is filmed through Tuck’s video devices there are numerous instances of shaky cam, which after a while become tiresome. This is but a minor setback, however, and it does add to that digital feeling the film was going for.
I only had a few issues with the film, particularly with Ella Wahlestedt’s character Emma, who joins the adventure on the latter stages of the feature. Her character is completely lackluster and forced, and it definitely makes it seem like the producers just wanted to fulfill their female character quota. The character was neither charming nor interesting, and she was definitely not allowed to develop her back story like the boys did. Once again, little girls are left feeling incapable of starring in an adventure such as Earth to Echo, and their role as unimportant background characters is once again reinforced. Aside from this it only bothered me that although the film is about an alien, the alien really isn’t in it for most of it. I understand that the main purpose was to explore the gang’s relationship with each other, but the cuteness of Echo’s character really could have been exploited, and more screen time and back story would not have hurt the creature.