By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Replicate the plot of Steven Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, add a dash of the same director’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a taste of his production of Super 8, take the full-out found-footage approach to the material, and don’t even pretend you’re operating at the same level of cinematic craftsmanship or artfulness, and you’ll come up with Earth to Echo.
Not, as they say, that there’s anything wrong with that.
Earth to Echo is a science fiction adventure about a stranded alien who is aided by a trio of young teens in suburban Nevada.
That’s not quite a ripoff, not quite a knockoff, not quite an homage. Let’s call it an echo and leave it at that.
Tuck (Brian “Astro” Bradley), Munch (Reese Hartwig), and Alex (Teo Halm) are among those receiving mysterious, encoded messages on their cellphones on their last day together -– because all their families are being uprooted and told to move to make way for a new highway under construction.
But the authority figures they report this to refuse to take their discovery as seriously as they do.
So, the threesome decide to figure out just where the code is coming from and what it means by embarking on an adventure without telling their parents where they’re going or why.
Sure enough, they discover a wide-eyed, beep-emitting robotic creature they name Echo. They realize that he’s injured, and that they’ll have to help him if he’s to return to his home planet.
And budding moviemaker Tuck records everything that happens for posterity. And for us.
Debuting director Dave Green overdoes the shaky-cam technique, using it so frequently and relentlessly that it becomes an annoying distraction from his story (but certainly not enough of one to completely undermine it, mostly because he gets natural, endearing performances from his young principals).
The screenplay by Henry Gayden, based on a story he co-wrote with Andrew Panay, celebrates youthful friendship and makes no bones about its intention to cannibalize other movies in an attempt to reach today’s kids.
And it just might.
So we’ll phone home for 2½ stars out of 4 for a diverting sci-fi quest that’s low on the originality scale but high in family friendliness. Overly familiar but fun anyway, Earth to Echo isn’t out of this world but should charm the youngsters.