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More than an echo of E.T.

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SAVING GRACE: A likeable young cast, contemporary technological references and a cute alien save Earth to Echo.

Earth to Echo

DIRECTOR: Dave Green

CAST: Teo Halm, Brian “Astro” Bradley, Reese Hartwig

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

CLASSIFICATION: PG

RATING: ***

A TRIO of teenage buddies find something frightened and light years from home in the middle of the Nevada Desert.

Aimed, presumably, at young audiences who have not been exposed to a 32-year-old Steven Spielberg movie about a homesick extraterrestrial, director Green’s Earth to Echo flaunts its obvious influences with all the fresh novelty of an app update.

While the method of storytelling has been given a fitting technological upgrade, everything regarding this sci-fi adventure, right down to the movie poster, is blatant regarding its intentions: it clearly sees itself as E.T. for the Y2K set.

Still, give novice feature director Green and screenwriter Henry Gayden credit for more than just audacity – despite all those echoes of classic 1980s sci-fi fantasy adventures, Earth to Echo proves engaging in its own right.

Credit a youthful, energetic spirit, nicely conveyed by its cast of naturally acting newcomers, a workable raw-footage construct and a spare but smartly spent special effects budget or the satisfying end result.

Getting a jump on the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the well-positioned Relativity Media release (which was acquired from Disney) could generate some noticeable sparks by claiming the family-friendly PG slot all to itself.

The 89-minute film cuts quickly to the chase as the lives of teenage long-time best buddies Tuck (Bradley), Munch (Hartwig) and Alex (Halm) are about to be uprooted with a new highway development scheduled to level their suburban Nevada neighbourhood.

But as they spend one final night together before the mass exodus, their cellphones start “barfing” up what appears to be maps and other gibberish, and the trio suspect something else could be responsible for attracting all those shifty-looking construc- tion folks.

Their attempts at deciphering the images take them to the middle of the desert where a strange looking cylinder embedded in the ground next to a transformer soon yields a frightened, wide-eyed inhabitant.

Even the uninitiated will know where all this is headed.

Apart from the primary source of inspiration, you will find bits of everything from The Goonies to Super 8 woven not-so-subtly into the Earth to Echo tapestry.

But having the characters’ constant reliance on video recording, texting and various forms of social-media-driven communication keeps it all in and of the moment, and that’s also true of the contemporary dialogue delivered by its likeable young cast.

As for the homesick little alien they have come to name Echo, c’mon, who can resist something that looks like a metallic owl bobblehead with glowing neon-blue eyes and speaks in cute electronic chirps?

Sometimes even the most shameless of knock-offs can’t be denied. – Hollywood Reporter


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