Although it shamelessly plunders any sentiment we still have for wanting ET to get back home after 32 years, this is an otherwise relatively fresh attempt at reinvigorating the science-fiction market for family audiences.
It has a good young cast, some occasionally dazzling special effects and a message that even when growing friends grow move apart it’s not the end of their own little world.
In a film clearly inspired by two more 80s’ hits – Steven Spielberg’s story for The Goonies (1985) as well as Brad Bird’s Batteries Not Included (1987) – friends Tuck, Munch and Alex will be forced to go their separate ways in two days thanks to a new highway project ripping up their neighbourhood.
They then start to receive strange signals on their mobile phones and join forces with friend Emma to see where it’s coming from.
Turns out it’s a small owl-like creature and they embark on a spiritual and scientifically-inventive journey to try to help the wee fellah.
Debut directed by unknown Dave Green, Earth to Echo blends ET’s communications arc with Joe Johnston’s lovely little drama October Sky (1999), about a boy inspired by the first Sputnik mission to take up rocketry.
Throw in perhaps too much [REC] style hand-held camerawork and you also get a contemporary found-footage style of filmmaking to boot.
I found this aspect a little jarring and would have preferred a greater emphasis on humour, but the title is cool and film’s celebration of childhood and friendship is worth the admission alone.
As is the bit where a lorry breaks apart only to reform in a sequence that would have graced the current Transformers movie.
The inevitably ‘homeward bound’ climax also builds on these effects and, in a film that feels this small and intimate, it’s another impressive touch.