I used to love the Transformers cartoon as a kid. Recently, I tried to watch an episode. The plot involved the Autobots trying to pull one over on the Decepticons by pretending to be human scientists to keep them from stealing… Whatever, it doesn’t matter. But the Autobots thought that they could fool the Decepticons by DRESSING AS HUMAN SCIENTISTS, LAB COATS AND ALL. These are 20-foot-tall robots. In lab coats. How the Decepticons didn’t fall for this is beyond me. Also, where would one even find a lab coat to fit a 20-foot-tall robot? What’s my point? Sometimes, the stuff that we hold dear from our childhood doesn’t hold up when we’re adults. Now, this might be an unfair example because for every Transformers cartoon there’s a Goonies or a Sandlot that does hold up. My question is does it hold up because we cherished these films so much when we were younger or because they’re legitimately, you know, good?
So that’s the dilemma when reviewing Earth to Echo. It’s a kid’s movie. And not one of these sly kid’s movies that’s really for adults like The Lego Movie or Toy Story 3. It’s wholesome and innocent and completely devoid of cynicism. But sadly, it’s also not in the class of some of the movies it’s aspiring to be. We’ll leave the ET comparisons aside, as asking a cast and crew of unknowns to approach one of the great films is folly. But it could at least be The Explorers, right? Alex, Tuck, and Munch are friends who live in the same Southern California/Nevada/Arizona neighborhood in which Elliot lived (guess I lied about no ET comparisons. But really, this movie owes a lot to that one). Their friendships are threatened when a highway project forces their respective families to find new places to live.
The movie begins days from the forced move, and the trio’s personalities are quickly established. Tuck is the tough-talking (for a pre-teen) braggart, Munch is the nebbishy tech-dork, and Alex is the straight man, making him the boring one. The movie’s shot in the same found-footage style as Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield.
We get to see the three interacting with their families and each other plenty. We see them at school trying to talk to the class popular girl Emma. Movie Golden Rule 1: If you introduce a cute girl in Act 1, she’d better be the lead’s love interest by Act 3. There’s a movie in here somewhere about what having to split up does to friends (think a PG Superbad), but this is about finding an alien robot and so the show must go on. As they prepare for their moves, their cell phones and computers begin acting up.
They quickly figure out they’re receiving encrypted messages and follow the source from which said messages originate. They’re led to a deserted field where they find Echo. They devise a system of yes/no communication with the little guy, and the actors do a good job in expressing their sense of wonder at having come across an alien/robot. The character designer must’ve stayed up late one night watching the original Clash of the Titans on TCM because Echo reminds me a lot of Bubo the Owl crossed with Eve from Wall-E. But what was Wall-E if not an adaptation of Number 5 from Short Circuit? That’s just one of the many ways Earth to Echo pays homage to its spiritual predecessors.
They learn that Echo’s trying to get home (sound familiar?), and Echo leads them on a scavenger hunt throughout the town to acquire parts for his journey. But there’s a problem. The construction company building the highway isn’t actually a construction company and the highway project was just a cover to find Echo. So they’re racing to get him home before shady government agents can get their hands on him (now that’s gotta sound familiar!). Eventually these government agents do get their hands on him (her? Echo could be a her.), Echo has to be rescued, Munch gets some courage, and the boy gets the girl. I appreciate Earth to Echo trying to revive this kids-teaming-together/80s style/sci-fi genre, but I’ve seen it done better before. But who cares what I think, right? Will this appeal to kids? Judging by the reactions of the ones in attendance at the theater where I saw it, that’s a resounding yes. They laughed plenty and were genuinely engaged. As parents, you don’t have to worry you might be taking your kids to something unsavory. Your kids get to see actors their age displaying valor, loyalty, and compassion, which is a refreshing change of pace from them usually watching tweens being little sassy brats to authority figures on certain TV shows (I’m looking at you, Jessie).
You can watch the Earth to Echo trailer here to get a glimpse for yourself.
Check out the Earth To Echo Geocache Adventure
Calling all adventure seekers! EARTH TO ECHO opens in theaters on July 2nd — but you can prepare for the journey in the meantime with the brand new Geocaching EARTH TO ECHO Adventure! Geocaching is a family-friendly activity, where adventure seekers can use an app or GPS on their mobile devices to search for cleverly hidden containers placed in nearby neighborhoods.
Go on a Geocaching adventure in your city with Earth To Echo! Play to unlock the mystery today in these cities!
Get Social With Earth to Echo!