When a movie is based on a small alien creature who brings no emotional connection, warmth or personality to the story, you know the film is in big trouble. "Earth to Echo" stars an owl-shaped character from outer space who fits easily into a kid's backpack. He's given the name Echo by the three boys who find him stuck in the Nevada desert.
Those three teenagers, Tuck (Brian "Astro" Bradley), Munch (Reese Hartwig) and Alex (Teo Halm) are planning their last night together because their neighborhood is being relocated for a construction project. (And no one protested the move except the children?) Their cell phones are displaying weird signals (a la "The Signal" --- another really bad movie), so they decide to ride their bikes out into the dark and dusty terrain to investigate.
All of this is being filmed by Tuck, a novice filmmaker, with a hand-held video camera. Which brings to light a MAJOR problem with "Earth to Echo". About an hour into its 91 minutes, I was beginning to feel nauseous due to the constant movement of the camera.
Director Dave Green made the idiotic decision to have the entire movie filmed this way. Director of Photography Maxime Alexandre had each scene lighted for 360-degree movement, which Green states in the production notes "is fantastic, because you feel that energy and emotion in the camera work." Really? I didn't feel any energy or emotion --- all I felt was sick!
The story credit for "Earth to Echo" goes to Andrew Panay and Henry Gayden, with Gayden also responsible for the wretched screenplay. In all of the years David and I have been reviewing films, I can honestly say I have never been so appalled by the blatant and calculated rip off of other movies, most notably "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" directed by Steven Spielberg in 1982.
But again, according to the notes, this was Panay's goal. He was attempting to "recapture the spirit of seminal family movies from the 1980's." Unfortunately, he, Gayden and Green have failed miserably. The script is bereft of any true emotions, though it tries very hard to manipulate the audience into experiencing any/some feelings.
And, not only is the screenplay painfully amateurish, the actors (if one can call them that) are devoid of any acting ability --- or at least here they appear to be. Bradley overacts in every single scene trying to capture a hip-hop air of nonchalance, which never happens. Hartwig and Halm aren't nearly as bad, but neither possesses a memorable screen presence, though Halm has a couple of upcoming projects with James Franco, so the jury may be out on his career.
A 15-year-old Swedish beauty named Ella Wahlestedt stars as Emma, a classmate of the trio who doesn't even know they exist until they inexplicably show up in her bedroom on the night in question. She's the requisite "girl-out-of-reach" who just happens to fall for Alex. Gag me ---
Nothing makes me crazier than sitting through a horrible film, especially one that ends up making me feel horrible! "Earth to Echo" is a flimsy excuse for a tribute to number 25 on AFI's 100 Years 100 Movies List, "E.T.". My suggestion --- stay home, watch "E.T." with your family, and skip this nonsense.
Opinion: HUGE Don't Bother!
If you notice the word "annoying" repeated in this review an inordinate number of times, it's well deserved. "Earth to Echo" is as annoying a movie as I've ever seen.
This mess of a film is "E.T" meets "The Blair Witch Project", with a dash of "Transformers" thrown in. Evidently the statute of limitations on movie rip-offs has elapsed, since "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" was first released in 1982.
Three terribly annoying young teenagers, Alex (Teo Halm), Tuck (Brian "Astro" Bradley) and Munch (Reese Hartwig), investigate a strange graphic on their smart phones. It turns out to be a map which leads them into the Nevada desert, after dark, where they uncover an alien being, actually a little robotic owl the boys name Echo (the cutest alien this side of R2D2, I will concede), who has made its way to Earth from another planet. They will later be joined by teen heartthrob Emma (Ella Wahlestedt), who is also annoying.
Echo has immense powers that can create such wild disturbances on the ground that some characters in the movie think an earthquake has hit the area. But all he wants to do is get home --- sound familiar? I suppose if you're under 35 and never saw "E.T.", it won't ring a bell.
The single most egregious aspect of "Earth to Echo" is the extended use of a hand-held camera. Virtually all of the movie is seen through the lens of a portable video camera operated primarily by Tuck. Herky-jerky doesn't even begin to describe the effect on the viewer. In fact, I know of at least one critic who was sick as a result. Said critic was going to be nameless, but Jeanne owned up in her review.
Add to that the annoying teens in our screening audience who thought that everything these irritating kids did on screen was hilarious, and you have a wildly vexatious movie-going experience.
Early on, when the boys first discover the robot, they ask him annoying yes or no questions, including "Do you like Earth?" His unwavering and immediate response is "No". Gee --- I wonder why?
Opinion: Strong Don't Bother!