Pitched as ET meets The Goonies verite style, Earth to Echo is actually a fair bit better than one might expect. Yes, the found footage format is somewhat tired now, but as a contemporary update of that particular brand of 80s film, it is faithful to the spirit of the movies it emulates.
Of course, inviting comparison with ET is potentially disastrous, as it is a cinematic sacred text. But Earth to Echo gets away with it for the most part because of the strength of the largely unknown leads – Teo Halm, Astra, Reese Hartwig and Ella Wahlestedt. Director Dave Green coaxes sympathetic performances from all, and draws inspiration not only from the obvious sources, to which this film owes a direct debt, but also lesser known films of the genre (such as Joe Dante’s Explorers), Stand by Me, the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans (Echo looks a bit like the robot owl), and even the Children Film Foundation’s The Glitterball (from as far back as 1977).
Inevitably, Earth to Echo falls far short of the masterpiece that is ET, but on its own terms it works reasonably well. Although they now have mobile phones and wear safety helmets when they ride their bicycles, it’s refreshing to see a modern film where a bunch of likeable children go out and about and find themselves involved in a thrilling adventure.