The Bock’s Office: ‘Earth to Echo’ a spacey, scattered kids movie |

The Bock’s Office: ‘Earth to Echo’ a spacey, scattered kids movie

Alex (Teo Halm) communicates with Echo in "Earth to Echo." The movie is about a group of teenage friends who find a small alien robot and attempt to help him return to his planet.

It's exciting to think that a species from light-years away would come to our planet to touch our lives. When the result is a movie like "Earth to Echo," that thrill is lessened considerably.

Best friends Alex, Tuck and Munch (Teo Halm, Brian Bradley, Reese Hartwig) have enough going on in their young lives between school and home, but with construction on a new freeway about to overtake their Nevada neighborhood, that means they'll all soon be moving away, as well.

On top of that, they've each been experiencing unusual occurrences on their cellphones, which leads them to decide to decipher the meaning of these signals, taking the form of a map directing them to the middle of the desert as part of their last night together.

This impromptu adventure seems futile at first, but their discovery of an odd piece of technology means their escapade has just begun as they learn a tiny alien robot is the source of all their weird messages

And he desperately needs their help.

Taken mostly from Tuck's point of view as the boy with a camcorder attached to his hand, Bradley — a teen rapper better known by his stage name, Astro — also narrates at certain intervals as he and his buddies seek out the segments of the little pod containing their new charge, whom they decide to call Echo because of his fondness for mimicking their ringtones.

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There’s nothing like hanging out with an alien to make you forget your troubles — in Tuck's case, being invisible among kids his own age and living in the shadow of his older brother (Alga Smith).

Halm is hard not to like as Alex, a kid in the foster care system whose brooding about yet another life adjustment is interrupted by his new mission of helping Echo, feeling a rapport with the little visitor, who also knows something about being displaced and forgotten.

Hartwig alternates between humorous and tiresome as the third in this gang, Munch being the designated worrywart and asker of the pointless question, "Are you guys sure about this?" At least he has the talent of sounding just like his mom and can therefore field all calls from their parents, who each think the boys are at a sleepover at the others' house.

Then there's Ella Wahlestedt as Emma, a classmate who tags along after the trio accidentally rip apart her bedroom while searching for the metal remnants that Echo needs.

Yeah, three teenage boys in a girl's room late at night. Nothing wrong there.

This crew works up quite a rap sheet in the course of a few hours, including grand theft auto, trespassing and plenty more offenses, but it's all OK when you're trying to help someone from another world get back home, right?

Putting aside that awkward conversation, the more noticeable problem is how closely this feature resembles the best of the best. Every movie about kids assisting a peaceful alien always will be compared to "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," but the makers can't even do a decent rip-off despite relying on the familiar archetypes of adults who don't understand and government scientists who can't be trusted.

This has more in common with the notorious "E.T." Atari video game than the 1980s Steven Spielberg classic, which already got its tribute with the far superior "Super 8."

Even Echo himself, though cute, has no semblance of originality, looking like a melding of the robots from "WALL•E" and the mechanical owl Bubo from "Clash of the Titans."

One might claim this is "E.T." for the new generation, a statement that's just disheartening when you look at the details. Between the found footage format that succeeds entirely in resembling the camerawork of a 13-year-old and the reliance of these kids on their phones and other gadgets for nearly everything they do, all this warrants is an exasperated sigh.

Even the more meaningful parts of the story of these boys trying to hang onto their friendship, and Alex's separation anxiety in particular, come off poorly thanks to dialogue that mentions these again and again.

The ones who will like "Earth to Echo" are those young enough to never have seen the better films it copies, which is fitting since all an echo is in the first place is a reproduction that gets weaker as it goes. To be fair, it's not the kids who are at fault but the grown people behind the camera who know exactly what they're doing.

No wonder anyone 18 and older always looks terrible in these flicks.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

If you go

“Earth to Echo,” rated PG

Rating: 1.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 89 minutes

Starring: Teo Halm, Brian Bradley, Reese Hartwig and Ella Wahlestedt

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas and Craig’s West Theatre.