UK Release Date: 25th July 2014
Runtime: 91 minutes
Director: Dave Green
Writer: Henry Gayden
Starring: Brian “Astro” Bradley, Teo Halm, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt
Synopsis: A group of kids become embroiled in a government cover-up when they follow strange maps on their phones and discover an extra-terrestrial robot.
The hybrid genre mixing sci-fi with the coming of age movie has pretty much always been dominated by the formidable presence of Steven Spielberg’s 80s classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. It is in the shadow of that film that Dave Green’s uneven found footage kiddie flick, Earth to Echo, lives.
Tuck (US X Factor star, Astro), Alex (Teo Halm) and Munch (Reese Hartwig) are best friends, due to be separated when a highway construction project runs through their suburban hometown. With attractive classmate Emma (Ella Wahlestedt) in tow, the kids discover an extra-terrestrial and must fight to keep their new friend safe from government agents trying to capture him.
Earth to Echo is not E.T. That much is clear from the start, as Brian “Astro” Bradley spends much of the opening act speaking in voiceover about how awful it is to be a kid without influence. It’s very standard stuff for a children’s film that certainly doesn’t have the mass appeal of Spielberg’s movie.
| "Our whole lives, we’ve been nobodies… invisible."
As the conspiracy plot slowly unfolds, it’s clear that Earth to Echo wants to get by on the charm of its young leads. Unfortunately, this charm is simply non-existent, with the possible exception of Reese Hartwig, who shows flashes of some excellent comic timing. Astro has real confidence and presence, but this tends to make his character feel a little arrogant rather than making him identifiable. It says a lot that the most likeable character is a CGI robot, and one that gets surprisingly little time on screen.
Earth to Echo is essentially just a collection of parts from different movies, hastily assembled into a rather clumsy film. There’s bits of E.T., Stand By Me and even Josh Trank’s Chronicle in terms of the found footage gimmick. Despite the fact found footage is wearing thin for many in the horror genre, its expansion into other genres is continuing at quite a pace.
It is by pushing this gimmick that feature debutant director Dave Green manages to bring a bit of invention to his film. The entire story is presented as a YouTube video, with Google Maps and Apple video chats playing a big part in the narrative. That may leave the film feeling rather outdated in a decade’s time, but for now, it’s an interesting twist on a very established formula.
| "Is it amazing? Because I think it’s scary as balls."
The overriding feeling with Earth to Echo is that it’s constantly trying a little bit too hard. It wants to be something that it isn’t, which leaves it saddled with a tonne of expectations that it has no hope of matching. In fact, the only time its ambition really pays off is in the third act, when the spectacle outgrows the found footage format to create a lovely juxtaposition.
Earth to Echo does work, occasionally, but it never hits hard enough to make its mark.
Pop or Poop?
It cannibalises a series of far superior movies and suffers from a young cast saddled with poor material, so Earth to Echo often feels like a film struggling with its own ambitions.
However, despite its rather pedestrian plotting and sketchily drawn characters, it deserves some credit for stretching the idea of found footage and by producing some stunning third act spectacle.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.