Shot in the ‘found footage’ style, this is no tweenage “Blair Witch Project” and it would be more appropriate to call it a ‘selfie movie’ as the main characters themselves do the filming and are hyper aware of the camera. Liberally borrowing from cherished classics such as “The Goonies”, “Flight Of The Navigator”, “Batteries Not Included”, “Explorers” and especially “E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial”, “Earth To Echo” is exactly that, an echo: a diminished, pale imitation of the things it’s copying.
The story starts as three friends are preparing to move out of their housing development which has been earmarked for a new freeway development but when mysterious signals start disrupting mobile phones across the neighbourhood, the boys decide to have one last night of adventure before their parents’ moves split them up. Setting off on their bicycles, they find an injured alien who needs their help, leading them on a pedal-powered night of adventure as they help recover the pieces of equipment needed by the alien.
The plot is fairly straightforward, with the usual trope of the sinister government forces racing against the children to find the spaceship and alien visitor but the film achieves its simplicity by moving from plot point to plot point without any real narrative flow. The lead children, while adequate actors, are horribly written: unlikeable and indulgent with thin and contrived backstories and saddled with extensive expository dialogue to make up for the disjointed story.
The ‘found footage’ gimmick is entirely unnecessary here and the film would have been better as a conventionally shot movie, perhaps freeing up time for character development or more elaborate set pieces rather than explanations of why these kids would have access to suspiciously high-spec camera equipment. The special effects themselves are okay, although a CGI-fuelled finale betrays its cheapness by the lack of noticeable impact on the surrounding landscape and Echo himself is pretty cool, if lacking in much personality.
As my fellow reviewer Mertmas will confirm, though, it plays very well indeed to its target audience and anyone under ten is likely to enjoy the innocent thrills and mischief of sneaking out of the house at night for an adventure and respond to the cuteness and safe sci-fi undertone of Echo. Anyone older, however, will likely spend more time counting off the references and rip-offs of other, better movies than they will paying attention to the intriguing but underdeveloped story the movie is trying to tell.