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ET 'clone' for a new generation



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Earth to Echo (PG)
Running time 91 minutes
Rating:***
Ever since Steven Spielberg created a long-necked, big-eyed, super-friendly alien in ET, film-makers have struggled to come close to what is widely regarded as one of the greatest family-friendly sci-fi films.
Most of the time, aliens have turned out to be nasty, biting things that do not have our best interests at heart. Perhaps the zaniest alien creation came with the dope-smoking slacker alien in Paul. But then that was the creation of the more-than-imaginative pair Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
Now we have Earth to Echo, which again puts children at the heart of the plot, with a narrative message of “no-one listens to a child, even when they are doing something wonderful”.
The fact that it is an ET clone shouldn’t stop people going to watch it, because, for families, this is a film which comes with good entertainment value.
Three boys, Alex (Teo Halm), Munch (Reese Hartwig) and Astro (Brian Bradley) – oh, not forgetting the girl, Emma (Ella Wahlestedt) – start getting weird interference on their mobile phones which seems to be telling them to head for a spot out in the Californian desert.
This would be fine for anyone old enough to drive, but they only have pedal bikes and it’s 17 miles away. Nevertheless, as this is the last night the three friends will be together – the community is being dispersed because of a new motorway project – they set off.
They come across a small, damaged, shell-like object which reacts to their presence and seems to be sending them messages to find the things that it needs.
Then, in a classic scene from ET, unknown men with sweeping torches loom over the horizon, clearly searching for what the boys have found.
There then follows a long chase with the boys – later including know-it-all Emma – evading the hunters and finding bits that the alien in the shell – named Echo – seems to want in order to repair itself.
There are a neat special effects, “nobody understands children” moments and a few instances of “aren’t all adults stupid”.
When you realise that this is a film that only cost $13 million (peanuts by Hollywood standards) and is directed by first-timer Dave Green, you realise just what an achievement it is – especially as the film has already made nearly $40 million in the USA.
There are some narrative stumbles it’s best to ignore and the Blair Witch-style shooting methods which may be all the range but don’t suit every cinemagoer, however the pros are ably boosted by good acting and a clever script.
Earth to Echo is well worth a summer watch, even if Dad spends his time moaning about how many bits have been lifted from his favourite sci-fi movies from way back when.



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