Film has Echoes of a clas­sic

Fan­tasy fam­ily movie harks back to Spiel­berg’s 80s hit

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Earth to Echo Cer­tifi­cate PG Stars Teo Halm, Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlest­edt, Ja­son Grey-Stan­ford

In 1982, ET phoned home and now another stranded ex­tra-ter­res­trial re­quires as­sis­tance from pint-sized he­roes to safely re­turn to the stars in Dave Green’s fan­tas­ti­cal fam­ily-ori­ented ad­ven­ture.

Earth To Echo begs ob­vi­ous sim­i­lar­i­ties to Steven Spiel­berg’s clas­sic com­ing-of-age story and the 1987 fan­tasy *Bat­ter­ies Not In­cluded.

Green’s spe­cial ef­fects-laden pic­ture lacks the emo­tional wal­lop of the for­mer and the un­abashed charm of the lat­ter, but does tread a fa­mil­iar path through fresh eyes by em­ploy­ing the found footage for­mat a la Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity.

Char­ac­ters ad­dress an om­nipresent video cam­era, ver­bal­is­ing their ex­cite­ment and fear as a night-time bi­cy­cle ride into the desert be­comes a res­cue mis­sion of ga­lac­tic pro­por­tions.

“I’m Regi­nald. I’m a bit of an ac­quired taste... that’s what my mom says,” con­fesses one of the boys in his en­dear­ingly ner­vous in­tro­duc­tion.

Like all ex­am­ples of the genre, the lens in­vari­ably points in the right di­rec­tion, re­gard­less of re­al­ism, to cap­ture im­por­tant con­ver­sa­tions and push for­ward the sto­ry­line.

“What you’re about to see is what hap­pened to me and my friends one year ago,” ex­plains Tuck (Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley).

In frag­mented footage, we meet Tuck’s best friends Alex (Teo Halm) and Regi­nald aka Munch (Reese Hartwig) af­ter they learn that a high­way con­struc­tion project is go­ing to tear apart their com­mu­nity of Clark County, Ne­vada. The lads will have to re­lo­cate to dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try, sig­nalling the end of their balmy child­hood.

On their last night to­gether, the boys fol­low strange sig­nals on their mo­bile phones into the desert.

“I never un­der­stood why peo­ple like the out­doors,” wheezes Munch.

They un­cover a friendly robot, who has be­come stranded on Earth and the boys pledge to help their oth­er­worldly friend lo­cate the miss­ing parts of his space­ship so he can re­turn home.

Plucky class­mate Emma (Ella Wahlest­edt) joins the trio as they evade shady govern­ment officials led by Dr Lawrence Mas­den (Ja­son Gray-Stan­ford), who are also hunt­ing Echo.

“He just wants to go home!” pleads one of the chil­dren. “That will not hap­pen,” sneers Mas­den, “that thing is far too valu­able.”

Earth To Echo is a state-of-theart ode to ET and its im­i­ta­tors that ups the tech­ni­cal ante for a gen­er­a­tion that prefers to swipe at tablets and smart phones rather than go out­side and play.

Green em­ploys spe­cial ef­fects at key junc­tures but, for the most part, he’s re­liant on the young cast to carry his film.

Halm, Bradley and Hartwig are ap­peal­ing with­out be­ing too win­somely cute, and there are some gen­uinely touch­ing scenes of the boys chok­ing back emo­tion as the enor­mity of the sit­u­a­tion, and the risks, be­come clear.

The tit­u­lar robot’s per­son­al­ity is en­cap­su­lated in a few beeps and trills that should, if noth­ing else, re­mind au­di­ences to keep their mo­bile de­vices switched off for the du­ra­tion.

Munch (Reese Hartwig) is about to have a close en­counter in Earth to Echo

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