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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Earth To Echo | Brian'Astro'Bradley, Teo Halm, Reese C. Hartwig, Ella Linnea Wahlestedt | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
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Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for Lasvegasroundtheclock.com
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Earth To Echo | Brian'Astro'Bradley, Teo Halm, Reese C. Hartwig, Ella Linnea Wahlestedt | Review

If there is an echo to this film, it is the inevitable comparison to E.T., Super 8, Batteries Not Included, and Chronicle.  Earth to Echo is all of the above and none of them at the same time, retaining some elements of originality within great swaths of “been there, done that” from its cinematic predecessors.

A group of young friends follow a strange signal that pulses through their soon-to-be-dismantled community’s cell phones (a highway’s coming through and everyone must move) to find a large, bullet-shaped pod in the desert.  It contains an alien life form that animates suddenly with a series of beeps, answering the boys’ questions (one beep for yes, two for no) and sending them on a quest to find certain parts that it needs to “go home.”

The boys are Tuck (Brian'Astro'Bradley) a camera-laden junior filmmaker, Munch (Reese C. Hartwig) a shy, nerdy tinkerer/electronics aficionado, and Alex (Teo Halm) a foster kid in a loving home (hey, you have to suspend your disbelief at these things, ya know?).

The alien, named Echo by the boys because it pulses their sounds back to them, resembles a tiny mechanical owl with big blue eyes. Needing parts from various places like a pawn shop, a bar, a private home (where the group gains a female member, Emma (Ella Linnea Wahlestedt) and ultimately, a junk yard, has the group constantly on the move, mostly by bike, and trying to stay hidden from the inevitable group of Big, Mean, Intimidating Adults who are also on Echo’s trail.

Although no bikes fly through the night sky and the word extra-terrestrial is never mentioned, the plot follows a similar path with many of the same signposts along the way.  Big Bad Adults from some unnamed agency just can’t leave the kids alone in their noble quest to help their lost friend find his way home.  The title contains the initials ET, and the image of a pointing finger is shown.  Perhaps it is all done on purpose.  After all, what producer wouldn’t ant the same type of worldwide acclaim (and profit),

With no major stars, the film rests on the likeability of its young protagonists, with varying effectiveness.  The Tuck character’s strong east coast (NY) accent seems totally out of place, not just among his friends, but in his own family.  Alex tears up on cue at one point, not really believable but more of a calculated, sentimental requirement.  Munch does something brave and totally out of character, then cries profusely at a later point, begging “Don’t kill me.”  Emma adds some girl power to the group because diversity is good and because screenwriter Henry Gayden, making his debut here, decided the group - and the audience - needed her for a wider appeal.

First-time director Dave Green shoots the film as though it flows from a variety of Tuck’s diverse hand-held cameras (one is embedded in a pair of eyeglasses) for a wild, jerky, Cinéma vérité feel that made several members of the audience exit the screening, a few even vomiting from all of the swift movement.  Others found it effective.

Relativity Media’s Earth to Echo does contain some excellent special effects at scattered points in the story, and it tries for an originality that for the most part, eludes it.  The film is a hit-and-miss collection of action, emotion, and CGI effects that, when taken as a whole, turns out to be just okay.

Look for an Easter egg after the credits.  Perhaps this Echo will do what all echoes do: come back once more.

 

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