DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

EARTH TO ECHO (director: Dave Green; screenwriter: Henry Gayden/from a story by Henry Gayden; cinematographer: Maxime Alexandre; editors:  Crispin Struthers/Carsten Kurpanek; music:  Joseph Trapanese; cast: Brian Bradley (Tuck), Teo Halm (Alex), Reese Hartwig (Munch), Ella Linnea Wahlestedt  (Emma), Jason Gray-Stanford (Dr. Lawrence Madsen); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Andrew Panay/Ryan Kavanaugh; Relativity Media; 2014)

"The tagline is that no one will believe our story. They're right because the story is so dumb it can't be believed even by the most gullible."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The tagline is that no one will believe our story. They're right because the story is so dumb it can't be believed even by the most gullible. It's a superficial update of Steven Spielberg's 'E.T.,' that first-time feature film director Dave Green struggles with to reach any heights at all as family entertainment. It's based on a story by Henry Gayden, who also handles the script. Not only is the story dreadful and the child actors annoying, but the pic looks awful--lots of blurred images--as it's one of those trendy found-footage films that inexperienced and low-budget filmmakers seem to be fond of.

De facto leader Tuck (Brian Bradley), socially awkward dork Munch (Reese Hartwig) and troubled foster-child Alex (Teo Halm) are a trio of close friends in their early teens in a dull suburban Las Vegas neighborhood that is to be torn down for a government project freeway. On the Friday night before the friends must move to distant communities and maybe never see each other again, the trio lie to their clueless parents about sleepover arrangements and instead secretly bike into the desert to investigate weird cellphone interference, which they call "barf," perhaps giving off encrypted messages, and eventually come into possession of an injured small blue-eyed, creature from another world, who has the appearance of a metallic owl. The alien informs them he's not a robot and was signalling by phone because he needs help to get repaired and back to his ship to return to outer space. The kids name the alien Echo, and are all in on helping. They use a camcorder, mounted to Tuck's bike, to shoot their actions, use their smartphone GPS map tracking devices and wear those Google Glasses to surf the Internet. The trio is led by the loud-mouth bragger Tuck and are joined by their hot new pal, their classmate Emma (Ella Wahlestedt, Swedish born), who incidentally has nothing to do but provide some cautionary sexual tension. Meanwhile the group maneuvers around shifty construction site workers, who turn out to be sinister government agents also looking for the alien.

There's nothing innovative about the story, the kids who are supposed to be so close unfortunately never bond onscreen, and the children's sci-fi film, 1980's style, never clicks as something possible. It probably wouldn't make the grade even if was just to be shown as a home movie.

REVIEWED ON 7/4/2014       GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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