Earth to Echo
There’s no shame in openly drawing inspiration from others: nothing is truly original after all. Wearing influences openly can even bring a certain cultural cachet. There comes a point, though, where influence dissolves into naked derivation. Earth to Echo – ET in minor form – is not so much devoid of original thought as totally unfussed about the need to actually have any. And yet this absolute lack of ambition doesn’t prevent a harmless slice of slick entertainment emerging.
The plot owes much (if not everything) to the Spielberg brand of science fiction. Think ET with three Elliotts and an alien that looks like a small mechanical owl. The boys – best friends of course – are about to be separated, the entire neighbourhood forced to move out to make way for a new highway. Into this mix comes their extra-terrestrial friend who predictably needs help to rebuild his spaceship and escape the dastardly humans pursuing him.
Luckily, they decide to film their adventure, providing a remarkably well-shot account of their quest to track down all the missing space parts. In between close scrapes, they each get to appreciate their time growing up together. There’s charismatic cameraman Tuck (Astro), owner of an implausibly large collection of recording devices, oddball Munch (Reese C Hartwig), and the fostered indie kid Alex (Teo Halm) who exists largely to preach the importance of never abandoning each other, a task conducted with all the subtlety of an activated fire alarm. Halfway through they even manage to pick up a putative love interest in the plucky Emma (Ella Wahlestedt) and an impressively bland villain in Jason Gray-Stanford’s faux construction worker.
The alien is really just the enabling tool for a peppy hymn to friendship, a cinematic song that’s been performed a thousand times before. Still, with decent performances, a brisk pace and a clean crisp look (impressive given it’s allegedly shot on Tuck’s array of cameras), there is something pleasantly reassuring about their adventures. If Earth to Echo occasionally can’t shake the impression that it’s nothing more than an extended Nickelodeon show that’s taken a wrong turn onto the big screen, the refreshing lack of cynicism makes for an enjoyable dose of escapism. Just don’t expect it to linger longer than it takes to get that ET DVD out of the box.
Earth to Echo is released nationwide on 25th July 2014.
Watching the trailer for Earth to Echo here: