'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 Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.

(More History)