'Earth to Echo': What the Critics Are Saying

Dave Green's feature follows three friends, played by Teo Halm, Brian "Astro" Bradley and Reese Hartwig, and their new alien comrade as they embark on a homecoming adventure.

Earth to Echo, out Wednesday, follows a trio of young friends — portrayed by Teo HalmBrian "Astro" Bradley and Reese Hartwig  and a cylindrical alien they name Echo for an adventure to help get the little guy home.       

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With Dave Green making his feature directorial debut, the family-friendly Relativity Media film is predicted to gross $16 million to $19 million over the five-day holiday stretch.

Read what top critics are saying about Earth to Echo:

Film critic Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter says in his review that although the movie is reminiscent of Steven Spielberg's E.T., "Earth to Echo proves engaging in its own right. Credit a youthful, energetic spirit, nicely conveyed by its cast of naturally acting newcomers, a workable raw-footage construct and a spare but smartly spent special effects budget for the satisfying end result."

While older moviegoers will "find bits of everything from The Goonies to Super 8 woven not-so-subtly into the Earth to Echo tapestry," "having the characters’ constant reliance on video recording, texting and various forms of social-media-driven communication keeps it all in and of the moment, and that’s also true of the contemporary dialogued delivered by its likable young cast. … Sometimes even the most shameless of knockoffs can’t be denied." And "as for the homesick little alien they’ve come to name Echo — c’mon, who can resist something that looks like a metallic owl bobblehead with glowing neon-blue eyes and speaks in cute electronic chirps?"

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The New York Times' Nicolas Rapold, on the other hand, writes that "technology remains no substitute for well-written characters and genuine intrigue and atmosphere, so despite the cute special effects and camera jostling, this film feels like an extended episode of an after-school show by Disney (which reportedly developed the project initially). … Despite an endearing detail here and there — usually to do with Munch (Hartwig) — the children’s overnight adventure is more forgettable than a close encounter of this kind could be."

The Los Angeles Times' Gary Goldstein calls it "a lively and likable knockoff that should divert, if not exactly enthrall, tweens and young teens." Despite a few logic loopholes, "Green keeps things moving so swiftly — at times too swiftly — it helps patch over some of the film's narrative chasms as well as the fuzziness of its found-footage conceit." Additionally, "Bradley, Hartwig and Halm make engaging leads, bringing spirit and commitment to their archetypal roles. Unfortunately, the digitally animated Echo has nowhere near the charm, warmth or expressiveness of its Spielbergian ancestor."

The Chicago Tribune's Roger Moore says "the childlike problem-solving that goes on and the PG 'breaking curfew' edge to the story, which takes the boys all over their corner of the world, into all sorts of places where they could get into trouble — a bar, an arcade, a pawn shop" is enjoyable. But "there's no sense kvetching about a new, pale imitation of it for today's kids. Adults? You'll be underwhelmed. … And your kids? They will be tickled."

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SF Gate's Mike LaSalle says that the carefully budgeted film has two particular special effects moments that are "conceptually brilliant and perfectly executed," but overall, "Earth to Echo represents the worst of the old and new." The bit of technical magic cannot make up for "a story that starts off and remains a half-hour behind the audience. … It's as if there's a barrier between the viewer and the story that never comes down."