July 2, 2014 at 1:00 am

Review: 'Earth to Echo' doesn't take off

Brian 'Astro' Bradley, left, Ella Wahlestdet, Reese Hartwig, and Teo Halm star in 'Earth to Echo.' (Relativity Media)

“Earth to Echo” is a coming-of-age story with a supernatural twist.

The coming-of-age part works. The supernatural twist, not so much.

In his debut feature, director Dave Green stumbles by biting off more than he or his characters can chew. He takes a capable tale of adolescence and friendship and wraps it in a sci-fi story that raises far more questions than it answers. Teenage tales don’t need “X Files” side dealings to boost them up, which “Earth to Echo” learns the hard way.

Tuck (“X Factor” contestant Brian “Astro” Bradley), Munch (Reese C. Hartwig) and Alex (Teo Halm) are three best friends being forced apart when their neighborhood is scheduled to be demolished to make room for a new highway. On their last night together, they head off into the Nevada night to explore a mysterious disturbance that is scrambling their cell phones, and they make the acquaintance of a tiny alien being who looks a robot baby owl with WALL-E’s eyes.

The boys film everything — on their phones, on their camcorders — and the movie unfolds through those visuals, found footage-style. It’s an effective storytelling tool, and it feels authentic to today’s kids.

The script, however, is patchy, and glosses over every question presented by the presence of the extraterrestrial being (whom the kids name “Echo”). The friendship dynamics are enough to build around, but the movie is more concerned with the alien than the humans.

“Earth to Echo” recalls — but doesn’t live up to — films like “Super 8” and “Stand By Me,” stories of youth, innocence and the Summer That Changed Everything. “Earth” aims to take those elements to the stars, but can’t stick the landing.

'Earth to Echo'

GRADE: C+

Rated PG for some action and peril and mild language

Running time: 91 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com
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