Until Friday, I had never heard of Earth To Echo. But I saw the title pop up on the Moviefone app, watched the trailer with a few of my kids, and on a sparkly July afternoon I headed off to Woburn and took three of them to see it.
What a good decision. Beyond the new leather recliners in the theater, the movie was a total win. It’s a movie about adolescence and hope, alienation and friendship, life and adventure, all seen through the eyes, smartphones, and videocameras of four tweens/teens who are desperately seeking a way to escape the reality of being powerless in a world they have no say in.
The plot is simple. Three best friends who live on the edge of the Nevada desert are being forced out of their homes to make way for a new freeway. During the last days together, their phones start going haywire and will only display a map. One of them matches the map on their phones to a map of the desert, and on their last night together before their eviction, they lie to their parents about a sleepover and decide to find whatever the map leads to.
Into the desert they ride their bikes, and the adventure begins- a night full of following maps, a cute little alien, and not-to-be-trusted adults. They pick up a fourth member of the group, who’s obviously the beautiful girl from school with overbearing parents, and together they try to help their extraterrestrial find his way back home. Are their holes in the plot? Sure. But who cares? Take off your adult glasses and put yourself back into your 6th or 7th-grade self, who was desperately seeking independence and adventure, while also being scared to death of actually growing up. This is the kind of movie you would have loved, and it’s the kind of movie your kid that age will love. Mine certainly did.
While it’s certainly a descendant of ET, it’s not fair to judge it solely based on the fact that ET was an all-time classic. There’s a fair amount of Goonies in this one, too, as well as a little Stand By Me. That’s quite a pedigree, and Earth To Echo does exactly what it should do- keeps you engaged and entertained for 90 minutes. Don’t overthink the morality of smartphone culture or laissez-faire parenting that this movie portrays, just enjoy the ride.
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