It's strange to think about, but there hasn't really been a decent kids movie about aliens (or an alien movie about kids?) since “ET” came out. The space-invaders/visitors from space genres, nowadays, are almost exclusively aimed at older audiences, even though children are probably more fascinated by the concept of aliens than most of us. Hollywood's certainly overdue for another alien movie geared towards younger audiences, and “Earth to Echo” is that movie. But in what ways is this movie going to be different than “ET”? What information is available to draw from when creating a fictional alien intelligence, and where do these concepts stand in terms of our current knowledge about extraterrestrial life?
“Earth to Echo” follows the lives of three childhood best friends: Tuck (played by Astro), Alex (Teo Halm), and Munch (Reese Hartwig). While Alex is in the throes of constant relocation due to “highway construction,” the three friends decide to go on an epic adventure to celebrate his last day in the neighborhood before he is forced to move yet again. Prior to this, and seemingly unrelated, cell phones across the country start going crazy, as if the screen “barfs,” and no one can figure out why. Tuck discovers that this anomaly is actually some form of map, which the trio then decides to follow. They set out at sundown, and after riding bikes for hours through the dark Nevada desert, they eventually discover something truly amazing: the source of the map.
What initially appears to be no more than a piece of junk metal soon reveals itself to be much, much more. Scared and startled at first, Tuck, Alex, and Munch begin to realize that this advanced piece of technology is actually a form of life; alien in its origin and non-organic in its nature, which they call “Echo”. They learn much from the cybernetic ET, but most importantly, that (it?) crash landed and needed to be repaired.
But powerful forces are at work that aim to confiscate Echo from the three boys and prevent any such repairs. Perhaps this has something to do with all that construction. Perhaps they weren't building a highway after all...
Things get intense along the way, and it almost seems as if Echo and the boys are done for. But thankfully, their problems were solved, in part, thanks to a little female ingenuity. While helping Echo repair itself, the boys run into Emma (played by Ella Wahlstedt)—the pretty girl at school who every boy is scared to talk to. She is denied participation in their journey, but proves herself after chasing them down just in time to get them out of hot water.
From that point, the adventure only continues to build. I was impressed by how accurately childhood friendships and relationships were portrayed in the writing and direction. There was a natural chemistry among the four characters as well, which definitely draws the audience in and almost makes them forget they're watching a kids movie. There was a good amount of humor also, provided mostly by Munch, who was just fantastic.