IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 91 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Tuck, Munch and Alex are a trio of inseparable friends. Their Las Vegas suburb is being destroyed by a highway construction project that is forcing their families to move away to places at separate ends of the country. During the last week in their neighbourhood, their phones begins “barfing” – displaying weird electronic signals. Men from the construction crew come to give out new phones, apologising for the apparent electrical short that caused this. The boys hide their phones. Munch discovers that the image on his phone is identical to a desert 17 miles away, and the boys decide to go out there….
Earth To Echo is kind of a cross between E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and Stand By Me, though it has echoes [sorry] of many other 80’s kiddie sci-fi flicks like Batteries Not Included and The Flight Of The Navigator, as well as mining similar territory to the far more recent Super 8, though I think it’s a slightly better film than the J.J. Abrams-directed picture. The plot is very simple and consists of little more than a bunch of kids and an alien/robot thingie [who reminded me most of Bubo from the original Clash Of The Titans] rushing around various places trying to find missing parts to rebuild a space ship, and they could really have done far more than the premise, but there’s a genuine sweetness to the whole affair, its nostalgic portrayal of childhood is as lovely as at least some of the films it imitates, the central themes of friendship and acceptance are well handled without being schmaltzy, and the kids are likeable, well characterised and very well acted. There’s a great moment where the least likely of the kids to do so runs off and does something rather heroic. There are a few special effects moments near the end where the CGI [why CGI all the time anyway?] budget obviously wasn’t high enough, but the film leaves you with a nice, bittersweet feeling but still warm feeling.
It’s debatable whether this can actually be called a Found Footage film, because it’s just intended to be something somebody has put together, though it’s still shot in the first person format. It works surprisingly well and gives the very cliched happenings a real freshness. I dislike shakycam in ‘normal’ films because I don’t think it’s artistically justified and is incredibly annoying, and I still have terrible flashbacks to sitting through the sick-making You’re Next. However, even if I don’t really enjoy it, it has a place in Found Footage films, though there’s not actually as much of it in Earth To Echo as you may expect. Some technical aspects like the addition of a [admittedly rather good] score jar with the general aesthetic, but the use of a variety of camera types and things like Google maps makes for quite a visually diverse film despite it being in a genre not at all known for that, and shows first-time feature director Dave Green to have quite a bit of talent. Overall Earth To Echo proves that Found Footage, a sub-genre that can often just seem like an excuse for bad film-making but every now and again produces something quite impressive, is still alive and kicking and can work for more family-orientated fare. It’s a really cute and immensely likeable affair which stands out in a time where good live-action children’s films seem to be thin on the ground.