Despite winning the Truly Moving Picture Award at the Heartland Film Festival, it is a mild, vlog style version of the beloved E.T (1982) tale.
The people of Mulberry Woods, Las Vegas have to relocate due to highway construction. Among these families are three best friends who face the realization that this will be their last day together and they want to make it memorable. Using the classic ‘sleeping over at my friend’s house’ lie, Alex (Teo Halm), Tuck (Brian “Astro” Bradley) and Munch (Reese Hartwig) have a mission. Everyone in the area has complained about their phones making weird electronic waves and static signal. This electrical malfunction is blamed on the construction site. However, this being a children’s adventure tale you know that what the dodgy looking adults say is never to be trusted and it is up to the trio to solve the mystery.
Thanks to Munch being a geeky hoarder he gears them up and identifies these “malfunctions” to be coordinates to various locations within the dessert. Meanwhile Tuck is vlogging everything, as is the fashion nowadays. The whole trip has a definite Blair Witch Project (1999) feel being the gorilla style camera work, from the first person perspective and awkward close ups and angles.
Speeding along on their bicycle quest the boys find themselves at an old barn, where a seemingly chuck of junk starts to light up. After a massive freak-out session they realize it is a small alien robot stranded on earth. Naming their new friend Echo their new mission is to help it rebuild its spaceship to go home – wherever that may be. The missing parts are scattered all over the dessert, which leads the boys into some unsavory places and dangerous circumstances. Along the way their school crush Emma (Ella Wahlestedt) (uninvited) joins them as a piece was found in her house and she is desperate to get out of the house.
But where there’s alien life there’s very serious government officials, which aim to collect all evidence and spin some convenient lie as a cover up. Thus Alex, Tuck, Munch and Emma try to; outrun these men, keep Echo safe and themselves, collect the missing pieces while maintaining their original lie, but failing.
Unfortunately the adventure lacks excitement and awe. And it has all the elements; defiance, alien life, conflicts, amusement, romantic interest, kidnapping, adrenaline, the heartfelt goodbye etc – but somehow the film doesn’t execute any of it well. Of course it is a matter of opinion, as it is aimed at a young market it could be very appealing but comparing it to other children adventure films, it’s not up to standard.
It’s not bad, just a bit bland. Echo is really cute though, resembling a small robotic owl. And at the end, which also lacks a real climax, the boys meet up a year later and receive a signal from Echo.
Originally Earth to Echo was produced and developed by Walt Disney, under the working title Untitled Wolf Adventure, but sold it to Relativity Media – which already says a lot. One of the leading family-friendly-film studios lost either interest or faith in the film’s success. (Speculation). The film was shot in a found footage format and released in July 2014. Available on DVD and Blu-Ray.