EARTH TO ECHO
By Gary Murray
Starring Teo Halm, Brian “Astro’ Bradley and Reese C. Hartwig
Written by Henry Gayden
Directed by Dave Green
Running time 87 min
MPAA Rating PG
Selig Film Rating Cable
Ever since The Blair Witch Project, film-makers have been trying to make movies that feel as if they actually happened in a documentary style. The Virginity Hit and Cloverfield are two examples of flicks that have used the ‘bouncy camera’ technique to convey that the events shown on the screen did happen and are not just a fiction. The latest to attempt this storytelling technique is Earth to Echo.
The story is of three middle-school kids Tuck (Brian ‘Astro Bradley), Alex (Teo Halm) and Munch (Reese C. Hartwig). Through video digital devices and cell phones, the trio records just about every aspect of their lives. This includes hanging out at school and noticing girls such as Emma (Ella Wahlestedt). They are three guys who have bonded over time.
Their entire neighborhood has been condemned by the local authority to build a massive freeway system. It is the last night the three will be in the same area. Most of the families have moved on to other neighborhoods. They are sad and apprehensive about what lies ahead.
The first weird thing the boys notice is that all the cell-phones are malfunctioning. Eventually, the three realize that a map is being broadcast on the devices. They decide, on their last night together, to follow the clues that lead them to the desert.
Lying to their parents, they head out into the night. Those mysterious clues lead to a piece of wreckage and in that wreckage is a mechanical being they dub Echo. Echo kind of looks like Bubo from The Clash of the Titans (1981). He is only able to communicate with beeps.
They also figure out that the construction crew is not what they seem to be but a government agency looking for Echo. There is something the government is digging for and it is connected to Echo.
The film is a dual chase. The kids are trying to help Echo get all the things he needs to get home and the authorities are trying to get Echo. Yeah, it is the basic plot of E.T.
First off, the film gets a ‘dink’ for the way it was shot. I cannot stand that ‘bouncing camera’ first person way of telling a story. I wish that director Dave Green would have just made a straight teen science fiction flick and not tried to make it seem real. All the bouncing camera does is make the audience seasick. For gosh sakes, get a tripod!
Second, the film just feels as if it has been lifted from better material. More than once, I felt as if I were watching an inferior version of Super 8. The same kind of cast and the same kind of feel seeped throughout the production. Young Ella Wahlestedt is almost a dead ringer for Elle Fanning.
The film should have been more about the dissolving of three friends, that moment where they realize that everything is changing, and not so much a re-hashed 1980s kid sci-fi flick. More than once, there is a single spark of that more emotional idea but it gets lost in the science fiction overtones. A real film about kids facing the dissolution of their friendship would have been a much more powerful central message and not secondary to sci-fi hi-jinks.
Of the three young male leads, only Reese Hartwig stands out. He plays the slightly out of place smart kid to a believable degree, showing the greatest emotional range. His acting generates the only true sympathy in the piece. More than once, one could feel the audience drawing to the plight of this slightly out-of-place kid, afraid to fit in to his new circumstances. His crying seems authentic.
The film travels down the same path of E.T. and Super 8 but it is not as good as either film. The idea of an alien running from the authorities seems a bit wear-worn. And there is no joy in the screenplay by Henry Gayden, no sense of hope. It is as if he had generated two different ideas and stitched them together in Frankenstein fashion, taking the parts of different dead screenplays and making a hideous new beast.
The best thing I have to say about Earth to Echo is that it is surprisingly short. Shakespeare said “Brevity is the soul of wit.” And while there is much brevity in Earth to Echo, there is little wit.