Starring: Teo Halm, Reese Hartwig, Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley
Alex (Halm), Tuck (Bradley) and Munch (Hartwig) are three best friends about to be separated as their Las Vegas suburb is to be pulled down to make way for a new highway and their families are all moving to different locations. After everyone’s mobile phones start showing bizarre images, Munch discovers that the images are identical to a desert 20 miles away and so believes the images may be a map. For their last night together the three friends embark on an adventure into the desert where they discover the presence of a tiny alien who will need their help to get home, and avoid being caught by the authorities.
What I also failed to mention is that one of the characters is obsessed with filming his life for his video blog, and so films the entire events of the narrative, apart from the bits that are captured by the alien, who also happens to have a camera in which it films everything. Yes, it is yet another found footage movie – a genre which felt old before it came to existence. In a film that is happy to unashamedly embrace (steal from) its influences, it is a real shame that the makers decided to make Earth to Echo as a found footage film.
When I say influences I refer to the names that have been frequently mentioned with reference to Earth to Echo such as E.T., The Goonies, Stand By Me and the more recent Super8. Well, those films did not invent the themes of being a child and feeling like a rejected, unloved outsider and the deep loyalty childhood friends share (the cute alien who wants to return home bit on the other hand has been pretty much stolen). These are universal themes we all experienced as children, and any new film that explores these is a more than welcome addition to that canon. It is indeed the examination of these themes when Earth to Echo is at its best; the three young actors are all excellent and show a great chemistry with one another and are all extremely likeable and relatable characters.
There is no denying that Earth to Echo, though lacking any real originality, is made with heart and compassion (and has a cute alien), and for that reason is a very enjoyable and watchable 91 minutes. Unfortunately its storytelling and the fact the makers have opted for the found footage method is not a good move. This was a film what was originally going to be made by Disney, and it would be interesting to see what film this would have been had they not decided to sell the rights to Relativity Media. A (comparatively) measly budget of $13million means it of course cannot compete with J.J. Abrams excellent Super8 as a visual spectacle and that may well have been why it was made as a found footage film.
Apart from budgetary constraints and the fact the screenwriter can get away with being extremely lazy with exposition dialogue, I see no reason why Earth to Echo can benefit from being a found footage film. Not only does the camera work prove to be annoying, the notion of lazy screenwriting makes sense as the story itself is not very well written and dialogue very basic; relying on contrivances, especially in its clunky inclusion of a female character, and making light of the fact the characters commit a fair few crimes during the one night that the narrative takes place. However if well written and acted, a story can be involving without being made like it is filmed by the characters, and the found footage element in Earth to Echo only serves to undermine everything as opposed to being a complement to the emotional involvement of the narrative. However, thanks mainly to the cast, the cute alien and fact its themes are very relatable even if not written particularly well, Earth to Echo is still an enjoyable watch.
Despite unashamedly examining extremely familiar territory and being yet another film made in the God awful found footage format, Earth to Echo still has just enough heart and soul (including a cute alien), as well as three great performances from its lead cast to be a watchable, if highly forgettable film.