A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The boys discuss how the Internet helps them learn everything from how to get somewhere to how to drive, and young viewers will pick up on the various ways that technology makes life easier.
Positive messages about friends sticking together, helping those you care about find their way home, and having/watching your friends' back, even when it's not convenient or easy. The kids also realize that distance doesn't have to ruin a friendship and that kids can and do make a difference. The boys' shifting relationship with Emma sends the message that you can't judge people based solely on what they look like.
Positive Role Models
The boys all care about one another and are willing to protect and defend Echo. The boys do lie to their parents about where they're going/have been and get into a few potentially dangerous situations, but in the end they rescue Echo.
Violence & Scariness
Not as intense as other alien adventures, though there's plenty of tension and some peril. The kids ride away from shady-seeming adults who seem to be chasing them. A kid drives during a car chase; a collision seems likely but doesn't happen. At one point, an adult rather easily takes the backpack containing Echo after a brief back and forth. One kid is held against his will, and a group of adults tries to keep his friends in their custody, too. A boy records a goodbye message in case he doesn't make it out of one situation alive. The adults also surgically operate on/torture Echo. Very young kids might find Echo a bit scary at first (he makes things move/crash around).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Mild flirting between a boy and a girl, who hold hands once. A boy makes a suggestive joke about how he'll be in a friend's mom's bed "not sleeping" when he and friends kid about a three-way sleepover lie. A boy lies about having kissed a girl, whom they all refer to as either "hot" or "mannequin girl."
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A few "what the"s with a left-off expletive, plus insults like "loser," "liar," and "stupid."
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Products & Purchases
Brand product placements include close-ups of Apple computers, Nokia and iPhone smartphones, a Herschel supply backpack, and an old sports car.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The kids stumble into a biker bar where adults are drinking; the kids are given age-appropriate Shirley Temples. They later go to a high school party where teens drink from red Solo cups; presumably some are drinking alcohol, because they flee once the cops arrive.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Earth to Echo is a family-friendly alien adventure that's reminiscent of E.T., The Goonies, and other films featuring preteens who ultimately save the day. There's some mild violence (against the adorable alien), peril, and the threat of violence, but the main characters remain unscathed, and the villains aren't overtly scary. One guy makes a suggestive joke that may go over younger kids' head, and the boys occasionally make comments about "hot" girls (one lies about kissing the most popular girl in the class), but overall there's little romance. The young leads get into some iffy situations (they go to a bar and a high school party, etc.) and lie to their parents, but they're unconditional friends to one another and selflessly commit to helping their extra-terrestrial discovery. Note: The film's found-footage shooting style results in some jumpy, jerky visuals that may be physically difficult for some viewers to sit through. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Let's just start with the obvious: It could easily be claimed that Earth to Echo is imitating at least half a dozen kid-led adventures, but in this case, it really doesn't matter. Almost every movie is somewhat or even blatantly derivative, and at least this family film is so earnest that the copy-catting can be forgiven. Director Dave Green's first theatrical film probably isn't going to transcend the decades as a grand cinematic touchstone like Steven Spielberg's E.T., but it is cleverly poised to speak to today's crop of screen-obsessed preteens who text, chat, upload videos, and follow Google maps wherever it says to go. The three boys would literally not be able to complete their adventure without their phones and the Internet, and kids 8 to 12 get what that's like in a way parents likely never will.
Bradley, Halm, and Hartwig aren't super-slick Disney-fied actors. They're a bit rough around the edges, and that works in the movie's favor. Each is a different "type" with their own sensitivity and charm, and it's clear why Halm, the foster kid who has finally found a family he seems to fit in with, identifies so strongly with little Echo, who's scared and just wants to go home. The 89-minute runtime doesn't allow for a lingering explanation of Echo's home planet or even of a satisfying set of villains, but that just makes the story appropriate for slightly younger viewers who are just getting ready for live-action frights. Like the best movies in this genre, Earth to Echo is about friendship and banding together and knowing that kids may not have the same power as adults, but they can see things that adults can't.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.