Making the Grades
Alex, Tuck and Munch (Toe Halm, Brian Bradley aka “Astro”, Reese Hartwig) are inseparable buddies who are being forced apart by a freeway expansion program that is to be built right on top of their suburban homes. With only two days left before everyone in the neighborhood must move, the trio comes up with a plan that will not only bond their friendship but also allow them to share one last adventure together.
A few days earlier the whole community started having problems with their smartphones. Instead of the usual display, the devices showed random patterns of colorful globs (which the boys refer to as “barf”). Then men claiming to be construction workers started collecting the “faulty” electronics. Convinced this phenomenon is no coincidence, the young adolescents decide they will be the ones to solve the mystery.
Taking a closer look at the signal interference, the pals conclude the shapes on the screen may be offering a valuable clue, because they bear a resemblance to a map of the local desert. Anxious to investigate the corresponding area, the gang determines to secretly ride their bikes several miles out of town. However to do so means a little lie is necessary. So they tell their respective parents they are going to a sleepover at one of the other boy’s homes (and they back up the plan using some call-forwarding skills to make sure their mothers can’t communicate with one another.)
After several hours of pedaling into the night the group reaches their destination. There they discover a strange object amongst the sandy scrub that doesn’t appear to be much on the outside. Yet after it begins emitting a flashing light and making sounds, the youngsters are certain they have come across an alien life form. And sure enough (it’s a movie after all), they have.
The little creature that emerges from the dirt-encrusted cylinder is something no young boy can possibly ignore. Adorned with big glowing blue eyes it manages to lead the kids on an all-night scavenger hunt. Along with locating suitable parts to fix a spaceship, the search collects Emma (Ella Wahlestedt), a (gasp!) girl from their school. Their quest to find the elusive pieces of the galactic puzzle includes trespassing into Emma’s bedroom, breaking into an arcade, visiting a bar, stealing a car and fleeing from the police.
These indiscretions, all done in the name of saving an extra-terrestrial, are the greatest concern with the film’s suitability for its intended audience. Parents should know that these young adventurers never really face any consequences for their sometimes dangerous and illegal actions, although within the context of the story they appear guilty more of naivety than malicious intent. Thankfully other content is relatively mild. A crude reference to male anatomy and a couple of terms of deity are heard. Characters face perilous situations. And alcohol use is inferred rather than shown at a teen party and in the bar.
Now the biggest issue for adults: This movie is shot in its entirety from a hand-held camera perspective. Sometimes the camera is mounted on a bicycle or a pair of glasses, at others it is simply toted around. So please note, if you suffer from motion sickness, this may not be the film for you.
Earth to Echo is a nice addition to that small collection of summertime movies featuring young adolescent with an unfailing optimism that they can change the world. It also provides some pointers on real life relationships, even though the plot is all about an alien life form.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Earth to Echo.
How does the use of technology change this “boys’ adventure” story? In what ways were “clues” were introduced in movies made before everyone had a smartphone?
Does a good cause justify breaking laws?
Why do so many movies about kids show the adults as being evil or incompetent? How does this portrayal affect the options these youngsters have when trying to achieve their goal? In the real world, what other ways might the friends have used to help the alien?