In Relativity's PG summer family adventure movie, Tuck, Munch and Alex are a trio of inseparable friends whose lives are about to change. Their neighborhood is being destroyed by a highway construction project that is forcing their families to move away. But just two days before they must part ways, the boys begin receiving a strange series of signals on their phones. Convinced something bigger is going on, they team up with another school friend, Emma, and set out to look for the source of their phone signals. What they discover is something beyond their wildest imaginations: a small alien who has become stranded on Earth. In need of their help, the four friends come together to protect the alien and help him find his way home. This journey, full of wonder and adventure, is their story, and their secret.
I think we can all agree that we've seen our fair share of "found footage" films. Whether it be in the horror genre, science fiction, superhero, comedy, or action adventure films, these "found footage" productions are apparently here to stay. Some are well done. Some aren't. But it seems like most of them make a decent dent in the box office. Nowadays, we have to wait and see if a filmmaker comes up with a new gimmick or genre to use this "found footage" ploy. Well, writer Henry Gayden and director Dave Green gave it the old college try with their family friendly film 'Earth to Echo'.
Here, Green and Gayden rely on a group of young kids, who are not even thirteen yet, to tell this action adventure story and capture the full footage through the use of their mobile phone cameras, home video recorders, and even spy glasses. But there is enough heart and soul in this family flick to keep interest and excitement up, despite glaring similarities to past films. A heavy dose of 'E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial' with mix of 'Super 8' and 'The Goonies', 'Earth to Echo' sticks to the friendship and loyalty story lines front and center and leaves the science-fiction aspect as a backdrop, which I think helps this film out in the long run.
We quickly learn that a Las Vegas suburb where three very good friends live, Munch (Reese Hartwig), Tuck (Brian Bradley), and Alex (Teo Halm), are all a bit upset, because the city is tearing down their houses for a new highway, forcing each family to move to other parts of the country. So these three friends will no longer be able to play and grow up together. Much like 'The Goonies', these three kids want to spend their last hours together as much as possible on an adventure. The three friends discover something strange happening with their mobile phones, which has their phones emitting some strange signal and picture that is hard to make out.
They soon figure out that this mysterious interference and signal only happens within their neighborhood and after some research online, they find that a nearby desert resembles one of the images from the interference. The kids tell their parents one story, but head out to the desert to investigate where they come across a cute little alien with a robotic look they dub Echo. Similarly to 'E.T.', Echo is stranded on Earth and wanting to get back to his home planet. It's a genuinely charming film, but the blatant similarities and big cliches end up taking you out of this experience. The usual bad government agents who are out to stop the kids are in full force and nobody will seem to listen to these three kids who is soon joined by a fourth named Emma (Ella Wahlestedt).
While these four adolescents are helping Echo get back home and avoiding the evil government agents, the main theme portrayed across the screen is loyalty and friendship. This is the best thing the film has going for it and has some decent emotional moments. The kid actors do an amazing job in each of their roles, delivering on each of the emotions and driving this movie home. The special effects look solid as well, given the small budget this film had. I don't think 'Earth To Echo' will win any awards, but it is a good addition to the family friendly science-fiction genre that your kids will enjoy.
'Earth to Echo' comes with a good 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This being a "found footage" film, nothing is intensely sharp or vivid. Plus a lot of the film takes place at night time, which also hinders the detail of this image. But this is not a transfer issue, this is what the filmmakers intended to make the picture look like. Filmed with camera phones, home video recorders and spy glasses, the image looks as sharp as it can, when it can. The scenes during the day when the sun is out will muster up the best detail and give you the best closeups that mostly reveal fine textures in faces and costumes. But it doesn't happen often.
The night time scenes look murky, fuzzy, and a but pixelated, but again this is what the filmmakers wanted. It's just unfortunate for us, because we are constantly getting different variations in quality from the image. Colors look good in a natural and organic way, but never seem to pop off screen at any given moment, due to the low grade camera equipment as well. Black levels are mild and bit on the bright side at times and skin tones are natural throughout. The CG robot Echo looks good here and comes across softer than normal, given the low budget of the film and "found footage" aspect, but it doesn't hinder the viewing experience. Again, being made with consumer grade equipment in the "found footage" genre, the usual issues pop up, but it's not because of the transfer, but rather the raw and gritty look the directors wanted.
This release comes with a decent lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix. This is not one of the best sound mixes for a science-fiction adventure film I've seen, but it has some good moments. There just isn't a whole lot of robust and fully immersive moments in the film that puts you in the center of the action. There are a few exceptions, including a car chase and when Echo's spaceship starts to come alive. These are by far the biggest sound moments in the movie that pack a bit of bass and give the surrounds a good punch.
The sound effects are very realistic and sound incredible. They just don't have that extra mile that we see with the usual science fiction films today. Ambient noises are fine and there is some decent directionality here as well. Dialogue is always clear and easy to follow, free of any pops, cracks, and hissing. This gets the job done.
Creating the Truck Scene (HD, 6 Mins.) - A fun glimpse at how they made the car chase scene, which has the young actors learning to drive.
We Made That!: The Making of 'Earth to Echo' (HD, 9 Mins.) - A standard promo reel for the film with interviews with cast and crew with scenes from the film spliced in.
Casting the Characters (HD, 7 Mins.) - Here we have a bit of information on how they cast the roles in the movie and why they ended up choosing the actors as well as some audition footage.
Friends No Matter How Far (HD, 8 Mins.) - This feature dives into what it means to have friends and stay loyal, which is the theme of the film.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 6 Mins.) - A few scenes that were left on the cutting room floor, none of which would have added anything valuable to the final cut.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - Theatrical Trailer for the film.
'Earth To Echo' doesn't live up to 'E.T.' or 'The Goonies', but it has it's own leg to stand on. Being a kid's film, the "found footage" aspect works well here, and the child actors are all impressive. The video and audio presentations are good with some fun extras to go along here. If you're a fan of these types of films and feel like watching a kind-hearted family film that might make you think back to your days growing up with your friends, then you should enjoy 'Earth to Echo'. Recommended.