Watching the trailer for “Earth to Echo,” I was expecting a kind of cross between “E.T.” and “The Blair Witch Project.”
And it was. I think.
I’ll be honest: I couldn’t watch most of the last third. But I’ll get to that in a second.
A highway is planned to go right through the Nevada neighborhood where Alex (Teo Halm), Tuck (Astro) and Munch (Reese Hartwig) have grown up, and its residents forced to move. For these three amigos, it means adios.
In their last week, something strange happens to their phones — they are “barfed” on by strange images. After days of research, the boys figure out that these images are a map to someplace in the middle of the desert. So, on their last night together before being forced to move, they tell their parents they are going to someone else’s house and take off on their bikes to follow the map. Luckily, amateur filmmaker Tuck has the gadgets to document the entire journey.
At the end of the high-tech treasure map the guys find what looks like a broken, dusty rocket. Their disappointment is short-lived when they see the construction crew heading their way. They pack up the rocket and ride off. Before they get far, though, something strange starts happening to the rocket and they discover something inside is alive — and hurt.
Through a series of new treasure maps on their phones, they find missing pieces to make the little guy whole again, helped along the way by a girl from school, Emma (Ella Wahlestedt). The construction crew draws closer and closer, however, and the hours until the moving vans arrive tick away.
I’ve never liked “E.T.” so I really didn’t have high hopes for this one. The story was more original than I had expected. And the interaction between the three — then four — friends felt credible, like a bunch of kids had gotten ahold of a camcorder and gone off on an adventure in the desert.
That being said, I think the video director should be fired. And the director. And anyone else who was in charge of the creative decision to jump the camera all over the place.
When I was a kid, I used to read in the car a lot, and on warm days I would get carsick. Luckily, I haven’t suffered from motion sickness for a while.
Well, until seeing “Earth to Echo.”
The jumpiness of the camera shots was fine for about the first half, when I noticed I was feeling a little queasy. By the time we hit an hour, I was green. Had I eaten any cookies, they would have been tossed. I would have left to take a brisk walk around the theater or spend some quality time in the bathroom just in case except, you know, I was reviewing the movie. So, I spent most of the last half hour trying to take deep breaths and wishing I would just die.
I understood finally what my mom felt when watching “Wreck-It Ralph” in 3D.
It took a full hour before I could think of food as my friend again. And I’m fine now, so believe me, this a much more moderated account than I wanted to give right after I left. I haven’t ever had a problem with found-footage films before, but I also haven’t sat as close to the screen as I did for this one. I will say I didn’t notice any other theater patrons slumped in their seats and weeping softly, so it could just be me.
The bottom line is that “Earth to Echo” is a harmless story about kids trying to get an alien home, but don’t watch it if you’re the least bit prone to motion sickness. Because seriously, it was bad.