'Earth to Echo': Wrong number

Posted Online: July 03, 2014, 12:06 pm
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By Rick Bentley
"Earth to Echo" would love to be the "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" for the 21st century. But the new movie is to "E.T." what Reese's Pieces are to lumps of sugar. They share an ingredient, but one is far more satisfying.

The lack of interesting characters and a patchwork plot leave "Earth to Echo" less of a new "E.T." and more a "Cloverfield" for kids.

Alex (Teo Halm), Tuck (Astro) and Munch (Reese Hartwig) are three best friends being forced apart by a freeway being built through their neighborhood. They spend their last night together following some weird electronic signals that show up mysteriously on their cellphones.

Their quest becomes a close encounter when they find a tiny robotic figure in the desert. Through what seems like an endless series of questions -- and with the help of Emma (Ella Wahlestedt) -- the group figure out the alien they have named Echo is trying to put together the ignition key for his spacecraft.

Writer Henry Gayden should have phoned home for a few better ideas for his script. The group eventually end up facing members of a secret agency who reveal nefarious government plans. But getting to that point means going through a series of adventures that defy the film's logic.

It's a nice idea the kids have to help find parts to Echo's vehicle. What doesn't make sense is where the parts are hidden. Gayden puts the assorted parts in a creepy pawn shop, rowdy bar and closed video arcade simply to have the youngsters face awkward scenarios. In doing this, the movie ends up a disjointed adventure because the conflict feels superficially forced.

"Earth to Echo" was shot by director Dave Green as if all the footage came from the kids' cameras.

Not only has the gimmick worn very thin since "The Blair Witch Project" days, it always ends up featuring footage that makes no sense. Just like in "Cloverfield," it's hard to imagine that anyone would have the sense to keep a camera rolling when they get into serious danger.

The cheat here is that one of the kids wears spy glasses -- something every youngster owns -- that record footage.

Because the novelty has worn off, the hand-held footage just looks shaky and bad.

The film also suffers from having a relatively likable cast but no breakout stars -- like Henry Thomas or Drew Barrymore in "E.T." -- that connect young viewers with the movie. These are generally forgettable characters who are put in forced situations shown through the now-passe point-of-view filming style.

It ends up being a close encounter of the mundane kind.


MPAA rating: PG for mild violence, language.
Length: 100 minutes
Verdict: 1.5 stars


Local events heading

  Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Col. H.F. Sickless informs us that there will be new organization of troops in this state under the call for more men.
1889 -- 125 years ago: James Normoyle arrived home after graduating from West Point with honors in the class of 1889. He was to report to Fort Brady, Mich., as second lieutenant in the 23rd Infantry.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Austria Hungary declared war on Serbia. Germany and Austria refused an invitation of Sir Edward Grey to join Great Britain at a mediation conference.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Dr. William Mayo, the last of the three famous Mayo brother surgeons, died at the age of 78.
1964 -- 50 years ago: One of the biggest horse shows of the season was held yesterday at Hillandale Arena on Knoxville Road under the sponsorship of the Illowa Horsemen's Club.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Davenport is like a gigantic carnival this weekend with the Bix Arts Fest taking over 12 square blocks of the downtown area. A festive atmosphere prevailed Friday as thousands of people turned out to sample what the Arts Fest has to offer.

(More History)