Our Score: 2 out of 5 Stars
While “Earth to Echo” looks like a live action “WALL-E” mixed with the nostalgia of “E.T.”, it’s actually more like a “Goonies” for today’s youth. Regardless of what child’s science fiction movie or Steven Spielberg classic I throw at you in an attempt to convey what this movie should be, instead I come bearing bad news. “Earth to Echo” may have good intentions, but instead it fries its circuits on a misguided narrative and a plot trimmed down to the bare bones.
I may not have had high expectations before sitting down in the theater, but within the first five minutes, I really wanted to like this movie. “Earth to Echo” introduces us to a trio of best friends, with no backstory as to why they’re best friends. There’s Alex (Halm), the minimalist with an underlying layer of sincerity to everything he says. There’s also the social media junkie Tuck (Bradley), who’s hungry for an adventure he can record for his handful of Youtube viewers. Then there’s the most likable character of the youthful trinity, Munch (Hartwig). He plays the unpopular nerd that carries some of the movies more comical and heartfelt moments.
These three are getting ready to part ways because their neighborhood is about to be torn down by an evil construction project. A conflict so undeveloped, that when it shows up, you don’t have to be an engineer to see the design flaw in demolishing an entire neighborhood to build this silly looking monstrosity. Instead of selling their home and moving to another area in suburban Nevada, their parents are moving to nearly opposite ends of the country, which will surely crumble the foundation of their friendship. Surely…
But before the big move, their cellphones start receiving bizarre images, or as they put it, their phone is “barfing”. A quick Internet search leads them to plan out a night bike ride to the middle of the desert in the hopes of finding…something; anything really. In the desolate Nevada land they find a robotic alien that they name Echo. Through a series of “Yes” or “No” beeps, it tells them it was shot down, and that the evil construction company was the one that pulled the trigger and is now searching for it. What follows is a series of obstacles lacking tension and on the whole, an unfocused story.
If it wasn’t for the fine acting by the child actors, this movie would have tripped at the start line and barely survived off the fumes of other inventive movies before it. The advertising for this movie seems to be heavily focused on the pint sized electronic alien, while the movie itself seems more focused on our three human heroes. If anything, Echo is simply a metaphor for the movie’s plot instead of an actual character. This implies to me that the studio and creators definitely had different paths they wanted to take this movie on.
The movie writers (Henry Gayden and Andrew Panay) weren’t clever enough to evolve Echo more symbolically in the narrative. Instead of evoking more thoughtful “coming of age” and “friendship never dies” feelings, Echo seems to be misplaced as the cute, squeaky robot your kids will fall in love with. There are inklings of a greater idea at work towards the end when it’s finally time for Echo to head home, but that awe filled moment is short lived in a journey of similar and predictable misadventures. I can’t fault a movie too much considering it’s a safe bet for families and an enjoyable romp for kids, but you’ll definitely be thinking about better movies you could have watched instead.