LOS ANGELES FILM FESTIVAL 2014: It’s a rare occasion for me to sit down for a film geared towards family entertainment (discounting animated films), which made Earth to Echo an interesting change of pace for me at the Los Angeles Film Festival this year. While I was engaged for much of the film, there was an inherent disconnect between what the movie was selling and I was getting. This is not to say the movie isn’t watchable, but that even families who check out the film may have to try harder than maybe need be to receive everything Earth to Echo has to offer an audience.
Earth to Echo tells the story of three childhood friends, Tuck (Astro), Alex (Teo Halm), and Munch (Reese Hartwig) who are the precipice of moving out of their homes. The government is supposedly building a highway through an entire neighborhood in Nevada. These guys decide to have one last night of adventure before they move away and plan to investigate the phenomenon that’s causing all the phones to go crazy. They meet Echo, an alien who’s trying to get back to his spaceship, and take on the task of helping, much to the chagrin of some shady government “construction workers.” What then transpires is a race against time and their impending move to help save an alien.
Earth to Echo wasn’t necessarily made for me or people with my film sensibilities, and for that it’s quite a challenging film to grade. On the one hand, the movie is never dull and there are parts that leap off the screen in the best ways. The moments of wonder are probably why there are some elements of the script that just stick out like sore thumbs. The alien rescue and final act is clunky and the villains don’t really work as they are neither smart enough to hold our interest or villainous enough to scare us, hampering what could have been a pretty interesting third act.
However, this movie excels at individual character beats and relationships. You instantly root for these kids on their mission, despite the lengths they have to go to accomplish it. That’s cause the script and the actors are working in tandem to deliver maximum characterizations. I loved that they worked in so much of the characters back stories in and let them resolve them in ways organic to young people. There’s a particular scene at a diner where Tuck recounts a bullying story to Alex to get back in his good graces that just rang so true that you just can’t help but want them to succeed inspire of everything. This kind of emotional honesty is missing from most films and I’m happy that Earth to Echo decided to explore that kind of subject matter.
Technically the film is very well made. Director Dave Green certainly had his work cut out for him as this is a found footage children’s scifi film and he handles the action and drama beats with equal flair. There are some pretty ingenious camera tricks and shots that he uses throughout the film that work for maximum success. Joseph Trapanese continues his ascent as one of the most dependable film composers working in the industry and he delivers some fine work here, highlight the adventure and the more somber parts.
While Earth to Echo might not have appealed to me fully, it’s hard to really ding a film that’s this sincere about what it is trying to do. Families should get a kick out of this film when it hits theaters on July 2.