Review: Earth to Echo
There is a warming innocence to the trio of neighbourhood best friends seeking one last adventure before circumstances outside their control drive them apart. The diverse buddies are our charming hosts in Earth to Echo, a found-footage youthful escapade, and it’s because this film is so innocent that it isn’t downright aggravating.
That is, Earth to Echo isn’t a remake, but it certainly feels like one, playing out as a less sophisticated and less compelling version of J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 from 2011. Like that young adult thriller, here we have a group of kids sneaking out of their house, stumbling upon something strange (read: alien), and avoiding authorities in order to protect that which only children can truly understand and appreciate.
It’s not that this offering, one that sees a director in Dave Green making his feature film debut and a collection of unknown young actors getting their biggest roles yet, is particularly bothersome, it’s just ineffectual.
Foster kid Alex, the nerdy Munch, and the smooth-talking Tuck are soon to part ways after a lifetime of friendship and fun. A highway is to be constructed through their suburban Nevada neighbourhood, and with but days left together, they ride off on their bikes one fateful evening.
They’re following what they think is a map, as it seems everyone’s phone has been jammed and messed up, and something mysterious has appeared on screen. Thus, looking for a story and more ominously purpose and memories, the three set off, armed with rolling cameras because kids these days document everything.
Indeed, the found footage genre has worn thin, and while here it seems entirely reasonable that children in 2014 aren’t at all shy and like to catalog anything, the method still distracts and adds little. Earth to Echo is meant to strike emotional chords in those young adults slowly making their way to maturity or responsibility and self-identity, and the intimate cameras are the only things that make this jaunt the least bit engaging.
They’re funny kids to be sure, and they act and jab at one another with aplomb, but their quest for importance runs silly. It’s made all the more absurd when our protagonists start to relate their plight to that of their unique discovery. Out in the desert is a precocious creature that is lost, hurt, and trying to find its way home. The boys enlist, eventually getting help from a pretty female classmate, as they ride across the state, getting into trouble as they ‘borrow’ bits and pieces to repair this alien’s ship.
The rest plays out in predictable, middling fashion, but will suit just fine the very narrow viewing audience. Unlike Super 8, which was a genuinely chilling for young adults and still entertained and provoked an older crowd, Earth to Echo plays it simple and straight, never surprising or the least bit stirring.
There exists a tenuous metaphor, but ultimately everything is forgettable. Despite a few exceptionally funny moments and a rather adorable alien, Earth to Echo lacks conviction, fading away quickly into the background.