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Movie Review

Earth to Echo

MPAA Rating: PG for some action and peril, and mild language.

Reviewed by: Jessica D. Lovett

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Kids Family Teens
Sci-Fi Adventure Family Kids
1 hr. 31 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
July 2, 2014 (wide—2,800+ theaters)
DVD: October 21, 2014
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Relativity Media

stealing in the Bible

lying in the Bible

importance of obeying and respecting parents

kids should not ride alone into dangerous places at night

importance of strong friendships and being a good friend

bravery, courage

kids can make a difference

Aliens (extraterrestrials)

What does the Bible say about intelligent life on other planets? Answer

Are we alone in the universe? Answer

Does Scripture refer to life in space? Answer

Kid Explorers
Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.

Featuring: Teo Halm … Alex
Astro … Tuck
Reese Hartwig … Munch (as Reese C. Hartwig)
Ella Wahlestedt … Emma
Jason Gray-Stanford … Dr. Lawrence Madsen
more »
Director: Dave Green
Producer: Panay Films
Walt Disney Studios
Distributor: Relativity Media

Picture with me a young boy on a bike at night, peddling furiously away from government agents with a childlike alien riding in his bike basket. What movie does this immediately make you think of? That’s right… Steven Spielberg’s immortal classic, “E.T.”. This iconic image is appropriated for “Earth to Echo,” except that the character of Elliot is replaced with a band of three boys, Alex (Teo Halm), Tuck (Brian “Astro” Bradley), and Munch (Reece Hartwig).

Ringing of another Spielberg classic, “The Goonies,” the kids’ neighborhood is facing the threat of being demolished in the name of progress—this time a high-rise roadway instead of the housing development in “The Goonies”—and upon their last weekend together, they stumble upon a map that leads them to adventure… also, exactly like in “The Goonies.” To modernize the paper treasure map idea a bit, the map pops up on their phones after some electrical interference in the area.

Lying to their parents in order to go out alone, they embark on a 17-mile journey into the desert on their bikes to find the source of the mysterious blinking lights on the map on their malfunctioning phones. As a parent, it would terrify me to put the idea into my children’s heads that it is a heroic and magical thing to bike out into the darkness alone to some strange place down a forgotten highway without permission or supervision. To me, that alone would be reason enough to avoid showing this movie to children, but there are lots more reasons besides its complete lack of originality and dangerous idea-planting.

Adults in authority are pushed beyond the old parents-just-don’t-understand-us-kids stereotype to the point where they are all almost zombie-like in their mindlessness. When the parents are lied to repeatedly and can see that all of their children are missing as night is falling, none of them take immediate action to find the kids or make any effort at all to act like real parents would. To top it all off, they let their kids have a sleepover—without knowing where, as the kids don’t give a straight answer to any of them—on the night before their moving to a new home early in the morning.

Going to the place their maps indicate, they discover that an alien creature has landed in the desert whom they name Echo—a pint-sized mix between a Furby toy, Wall-E and Bubo in “Clash of the Titans.” The rest of the movie consists mostly of the kids trying to help Echo rebuild his spacecraft.

Another important note to take into consideration before viewing this film is the cinematography! If you get seasick easily, avoid this movie like a rusty, wayward ship! I generally have a pretty strong stomach for films and can easily sacrifice a lot of viewing comfort for art that is worth experiencing, but this movie definitely falls into the enduring-not-enjoying category. To give it a YouTube flavor and presumably to flesh out Tuck’s character of an aspiring filmmaker, the whole movie is shot from the point-of-view of his various cameras—strapped on a bike, handheld, from spy-glasses cameras, etc. This isn’t just an effect that comes and goes, plugging into the normal cinematography in order to add character, though, as it is non-stop through the whole diagonally angled, choppy, swerving film. I found myself having to look at my feet on the still floor just to get my bearings.

Language: There are about 14 uses of God’s name in vain, 1 hell, and many uses of the word cr**—all spoken by children. There is much lying and dishonesty from all characters—to adults and to each other.

As for violence, there is brief fist fighting, kids pushing each other down, and the kids steal Tuck’s brother’s car and drive without a license, almost getting in a terrible accident. The kids go into a bar replete with unsavory characters, a shady pawn shop, and teen drinking party, where people are shown passed out.

There is not a lot of sexual content beyond a couple seen kissing, jokes made (including Munch saying that a situation is “as scary as balls” and characters talking about girls being “hot”), and an out of place comment Alex makes about wanting to sleep in Tuck’s mom’s bed.

There are repeated instances of the Alex, Tuck, and Munch being bad examples to younger viewers: stealing a car (Leviticus 19:11, “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.), lying to parents (Ephesians 6:1, “Children obey your parents in everything, for you belong to the Lord.”), carving their names on property, destroying property in numerous places, breaking and entering, thinking that something is a bomb and deciding to go hit it lots of times to “defuse it,” and being disrespectful to those around them (Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do unto you.”).

Other reviewers have seen the clear homages to Spielberg’s work in this movie that I only touched on. In short, though there are some warm moments between the characters proving their loyalty of friendship to one another. Their friendship doesn’t seem to be founded on anything beyond the fact that they are all three social outcasts and no other kids want to be their friends. This fact alone propels them into an adventure that is colorful and has many borrowed cinematic bells-and-whistles that have proven in the past to be enjoyable in movies.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—uck, Alex, and Munch live in an average neighborhood in Nevada. They may be average middle school boys, but their friendship is anything but average. The three of them do everything together, and they’ve always got each other’s backs. When a highway construction project comes to the neighborhood, however, the future of their friendship becomes uncertain. The plans for the new highway have no room for their neighborhood, and the families of the three boys are forced to move away. Their separation seems imminent, and the boys are dreading it.

During their last week together, weird stuff starts happening. To start it all, Alex’s phone goes nuts and starts displaying an image consisting of random blotches. Soon, the other boys’ phones start receiving similar signals. After some digging, they discover that the image is actually a map of an area in the nearby desert. They decide that there’s something big going on, and they determine to solve the mystery. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Leah Hickman (USA)
Positive—We watched this movie tonight. I (Mom) thought it was cute. I get tired of the “camera running with the characters” aspect quickly. Overall, it was about friendship spanning over long distances, and standing by your friends.

Now~ my 8 year old son LOVED the movie. We rented it “on demand”, and he watched it two times in a row and asked to buy it. He loved the camera angles. I believe it made him feel like he was really part of the group of friends. He said it was an awesome adventure.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Tracy, age 40+ (USA)
Negative—We didn’t enjoy this film. At all. The camera was attached to a kids bike for a lot of the movie. This caused us to feel very shaken around and nauseous. The storyline was very weak. It was a very lame version of the film “ET.” I struggled to get through the movie. I only stayed because my kids were there, little to realize they did not enjoy it either. The boys liked it ok. As much as I enjoyed the idea of a free event, let us just say that if I had paid to see that movie I would have been very upset.

There are a few suggestive comments made in the movie. One that implied sexual contact in a bathroom with a girl. (These kids are like 10). Honestly, it sounded to me like it was a reference to oral sex. I could have misunderstood it. But it was certainly something that gave me a alarm, and I hope went over my kids heads. That being said my daughter who was sitting next to me she is 14, gave me “the look.”

The whole story is based on a group of kids who choose to lie and deceive their parents, and sneak out at night. There are a number of situations in the movie where the kids lie to the parents, or pretend to be the parents in order to deceive other people. There is also a scene with the kids go into a house where people are partying. These people are teenagers. They are making out on the furniture, and it shows drunkenness, as well. One of the boys finds his brother in a bathtub absolutely smashed.

I do not recommend this movie at all. Not only because it is morally bankrupt, but because it is an absolute waste of time. It will be guaranteed to make you feel nauseous with all of that jumping around on the screen, and it is a very poor excuse for a story. Truthfully I kick myself in the butt for not walking out and leaving. I should have left. …
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
—Claire Guthrie, age 44 (USA)
Negative—I took my 10 year old daughter and several of her friends to this movie. All 3 of the adults in the movie were extremely uncomfortable with the content. We left after about 45 minutes. The most difficult element of this movie for me was that the 4 main characters repeatedly lie to all the adults and authorities in their life with no consequence.

Actually, their lying, risky behavior is their answer to solving a problem which makes them the heros. The message that one can do wrong and end up with a good outcome is quite deceptive.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Lynn C, age 45 (USA)
Negative—96 minutes… with only about 18 minutes of half-way decent storytelling and cinematography. Shaky camera work and way too much “talking heads” time are actually the saving grace of this flick… they make it so boring that viewers lose interest before absorbing all the negative and unrealistic content. Yes, sci-fi is unrealistic on purpose, but three boys (and one quite out of shape) ride 17 MILES into the desert, hit three other towns at least a half-dozen miles apart and ride 17 miles back, on their bikes, in the course of one night?

And then there are the dysfunctional families… the only family that expresses real concern about their child is Alex’s foster parents. The rest are just clueless and come off as uncaring. (Yes, I know that children “on their own” is a key element in popular kid lit, but this takes it too far.

And then there is the lying, stealing and property damage that others have mentioned. Definitely one to be avoided. (I guess folks are avoiding it… my brother and I were the only ones in the whole theater.)
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: ½
—Kathy, age 60 (USA)
Comments from young people
Negative—Me and my nanny and dad went to see “Earth to Echo,” and we started feeling sick and our eyes hurting us around 20 minutes in to it. There should be a warning on it. A group of 3 boys lied to there parents said that they were going to a sleepover, but they were going 17 miles in to the dessert on their bikes at the middle of the night. It is a movie I am not buying.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: ½
—Sarah Todd, age 10 (Ireland)
Positive—Teo looks really cute in the movie. Every girl in my school is in love with him. But his hair in the movie was just amazing. But when we saw how his hair looked now we balled our eyes out for hours during school. Make him fix his horrible curly hair to how it looked in the movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Emma Manicangirl, age 6 (Australia)
Comments from non-viewers
Negative—Hello, I took my 12 year old to see the evening showing of this film on 7/21/2014. I suffer from severe motion sickness. I looked up the film's information prior to going to see the film and it did not mention anything about triggering motion sickness. I was able to view approximately 45 minutes of the film before I felt nausea and the urge to regurgitate. I left the movie and returned after about 10 minutes when the symptoms resided. I continued to watch the movie for an additional 10 minutes when the symptoms returned with a vengeance. I informed my child to stay and continue watching the film, and I would be waiting just outside the theater. I notified the manager of the AMC Theater of what happened. I informed her, she needed to post warning signs this film may cause motion sickness and the information provided for the film did not state it may cause motion sickness. She agreed to do so but also went one step further and refunded me the price of my adult movie ticket since I was unable to sit through the entire film. Thumbs up to AMC Theaters.
My Ratings: Moral rating: / Moviemaking quality:
—Miotic, age 43 (USA)

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