EARTH TO ECHO – Review by Susan Granger

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For family fun at the movies, you can’t beat this shameless sci-fi update of Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” It begins with three preteens, inseparable friends, whose families are being forced to move out of their middle-class neighborhood in suburban Nevada because of a highway construction project. There’s tech-savvy Tuck (Brian “Astro” Bradley), who documents his every waking moment on a video camera; Alex (Teo Halm), an earnest foster kid with sensitive separation issues; and nerdy Munch (Reese Hartwig), whose awkwardness adds comic relief. Read on…

Toting a video camera, they plan one last night together, biking out into the desert to investigate odd messages and a mysterious map that has “barfed up” on their cellphones. That’s where they find an odd-looking cylinder, lying on the ground next to a transformer. It turns out to be a damaged little alien that resembles a robotic owl with glowing blue eyes. Because of the sound of its electronic chirps, they dub it Echo, and learn – from asking simple ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions – that it desperately needs some missing metallic parts in order to return ‘home’ to its mother ship. That’s when they’re unexpectedly joined by their pretty-and-popular classmate, Emma (Ella Linnea Wahlestedt), who stands up to the shadowy, quasi-government bad guys.

Audaciously scripted by Henry Gayden – with nostalgic nods to “The Goonies,” “Stand by Me,” “Flight of the Navigator,” “WALL-E,” “Short Circuit” and “Super 8,” as well as numerous found-footage, mock-documentaries – and energetically directed by Dave Green, it copies most of “E.T.” plot points, including youthful vulnerability and empowerment, bicycles, even the movie poster. To the first-time filmmakers’ credit, they cleverly update the concept to the cellphone era and utilize the natural talents of these appealing screen newcomers. The background of this low-budget project is intriguing, since it was developed and made in 2012 at Disney as “Untitled Wolf Adventure;” and for inexplicable reasons, it was surreptitiously sold to Relativity Media.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Earth to Echo” is a sweet, extraterrestrial 7, filled with wonder and adventure.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.