40%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
68%

An unoriginal story once again adapted into a forgettable film.

The alien is stranded on Earth. We’re kids. Let’s get it home. Heard it before, right? How many movies about extraterrestrials need to be made with the same story and little to no originality?

Aside from remarkable visual effects, the only saving grace of director David Green’s first feature film is the true heart put into the acting by its four child protagonists, seemingly led by X Factor finalist Brian “Astro” Bradley. While the concept of convincing the audience is lost, at least they have fun portraying children of a neighborhood that is being vacated for reasons unknown.

The story is told from the kids’ perspectives in documentary style using personal cameras and camcorders (whose battery life never ceases to amaze). On their last night together, three boys set out on an adventure (a girl gets added later, but neither her role nor presence are significant).

The preteen’s smartphones have been acting funky (there’s your modern twist to the ancient tale). Their phone screens are mysteriously locked into a display of topographical maps of the Mohave desert. The boys venture out on their bikes with cameras mounted and rolling to find the source of the signal. Their quest leads them to a metal relic housing the title alien who communicates with them via…care to guess?

the-sci-fi-adventure-film-earth-to-echo-has-a-new-trailer

After a brief, yet underscored, bonding moment with the tiny robotic organism, the three decide to help their new found friend return home. The kids set out on a scavenger hunt through the outskirts of their Nevada town area. Along the way, they crash a house party, get treated to Shirley Temples in a local bar, and no alien adventure is complete without the fuzz interfering. Perhaps more than these kids know of Echo’s presence?

The story by producer Andrew Panay and screenwriter Henry Gayden certainly seems good for a graphic fiction novel or even a family TV movie, but as a feature film this certainly doesn’t offer much that hasn’t been seen before. According to Deadline.com, the Disney Company developed and shot the film before giving the exclusive distribution rights to Relativity Media after it “didn’t fit the Mouse’s release strategy”. Ironic that Relativity’s logo happens to be a rendering of a spiral galaxy. Earth to Echo was originally slated to be released in January, but got pushed back to July in an effort to hopefully get hold of the summer crowd.

It is unfortunate to say, but audiences deserve better entertainment value than this when going to the theatre. Though shot in documentary style, this film pales in comparison to previous “aliens on Earth” science fiction movies such as District 9 and Super 8. And by character standards, Echo is no E.T. Clearly it has heart, another redeeming factor, but the little guy can is on screen so rarely that the audience doesn’t get much of a chance to know it. And by the time Echo has recovered enough to truly show its power, it is pretty much too little, too late.

Another scene where the children are forcibly taken by adults to aid in the location of Echo’s ship makes too much of a satire of child abduction. But, fortunately, kids are unlikely to know the difference.

However, all audience members are likely to be impressed by the stunning visual effects from Prime Focus World and Shade VFX. A scene where a truck reassembles on the road is a wow factor that helps raise the film from complete mediocrity.

Clocking in at just barely 90 minutes, not enough time is given to appreciate the effort the characters are going through to help out their new friend as well as each other. Unoriginal script-writing also includes an “I’m sorry” monologue reminiscent of a 1999’s Blair Witch Project.

Even though the general story and main characters are just and kind-spirited, the title alien isn’t given enough time with the audience in scenes before the focus is diverted back to its human counterparts. What’s worse is that the antagonistic Dr. Madsen (Jason Gray-Stanford almost) all but completely ruins the family aspect of the film with his disregard for human life and child endangerment.

Bottom line, this one can be skipped at the theatre. The story has been done to death by Hollywood over the last 30 years. Some stories are hits, some are misses, and this one is quite outside the range for consideration. It’s certainly not terrible, but definitely not gold. Put it this way, it’s absolutely not a hidden masterpiece that will have a cult following featuring fan stories over the years and cosplays at the next Comic Con.

Earth to Echo is a textbook example of concepts that could be a lot of fun, but become unnecessary when the creators take it a bit too far.

About The Author

Contributing Writer

Herbert M. Shaw began writing movie reviews for his high school newspaper and hasn't stopped since. In 2005, his radio program "The Shaw Report" was started with WCDB Albany 90.9 FM in Albany, New York, and lives on with online streaming at www.wcdbfm.com. In addition to film and TV reviews, Herbert also covers a variety of pop culture events surrounding technology, gaming, and the arts. He has covered every single New York Comic Con since 2006, and writes an annual Oscar prediction guide.