Two-and-a-half out of five stars
"Earth to Echo" is an ambitious, low-budget sci-fi film that tries, very hard, to be the new millennium’s version of "ET." Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite try hard enough.
Using the good ol’ found footage technique, "Earth to Echo" centers on a group of tween boys in a small town in Nevada that is scheduled to be demolished to make way for a highway. However, something strange is happening to the boys’ mobile phones. They stop working, in the conventional sense, and their home screens have been replaced by maps.
The boys decide to spend their final night together before they all move away from the condemned town going where the strange mobile phone map leads them. It turns out to be something way beyond even their fertile imaginations: an adorable alien that’s a cross between "WALL-E" and Bubo, Perseus’ mechanical owl from the original "Clash of the Titans."
Even though every plot twist is predictable, I’ll refrain from any major spoilers except to say the boys and a young lady from their school will try to help the alien they call Echo return home before the government can get its hands on it.
Like I said, "Earth to Echo" is unapologetic in its efforts to be like "ET," and I really wanted it to be a better movie. Sure, it’s cute, and the kids’ quest for a little independence and empowerment is sure to resonate with a younger audience. But the movie lacks emotional impact, in part because of mediocre writing, and poor character development and acting. I’m not a fan of singling out young actors for criticism -- they have plenty of time to improve and those egos can be fragile -- so I’ll just say not every actor in this movie is a natural, and a couple of them weren’t ready to meet the film’s demands.
Ultimately, though, "Earth to Echo" is completely innocuous -- fun for the kids, and kind of boring for the adults.