Earth to Echo



A gentler, tech-savvier E.T. for today's kids.
Popular with kids
  • Review Date: July 2, 2014
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 91 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

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

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).

Sexy stuff

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."


A few "what the"s with a left-off expletive, plus insults like "loser," "liar," and "stupid."


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.

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.

What's the story?

EARTH TO ECHO starts off as a video diary about the last day that three best friends/neighbors spend in their suburban Nevada development, which is being destroyed to make room for a new freeway. When camera-loving Tuck (Brian "Astro" Bradley) and his two closest pals, foster kid Alex (Teo Halm) and nerdy introvert Munch (Reese Hartwig), notice that everyone in the neighborhood's cell phones are all showing strange shapes, they decide to investigate. They pretend to sleep at one another's houses and head out on bikes to a nearby desert that looks just like the shape on their phones. In the middle of nowhere Nevada, the kids find nothing but a dusty metal capsule that they think is nothing -- but still take with them. Then, on their ride back home, Munch feels the backpack moving and freaks out. Some digging into the capsule reveals a tiny neon-blue-eyed alien who's communicating with their phones by delivering maps to the locations of his missing metallic parts. The boys name the alien "Echo" because he can imitate their sounds with little beeps, and together they embark on an all-night adventure to help Echo find his spaceship.

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 really, so what? 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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Earth to Echo portrays the use of technology. How are the kids connected to social media and one another? Is this an accurate description of the way kids use technology?

  • For those familiar with other alien and adventure movies -- how is this an obvious homage to films like E.T.The Goonies, or even Stand by Me?

  • Do you think there are enough live-action movies aimed at preteens? Is the amount of violence and romance appropriate?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 2, 2014
DVD release date:October 21, 2014
Cast:Teo Halm, Astro, Jason Gray-Stanford
Director:Dave Green
Studio:Relativity Media
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Adventures, Friendship, Space and aliens
Run time:91 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:some action and peril, and mild language

This review of Earth to Echo was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 8 and 10 year old Written bykcardinale July 2, 2014

Hand held camera warning

The movie itself was cute. I grew up on Goonies and E.T. Its not that good but my boys enjoyed it. Warning: It is filmed using a hand held camera that bobs, jumps, shakes and makes watching the action confusing at times. Once or twice it even made me nauseous. My 10 year old actually threw up. My 8 year old commented that he loved how the kids filmed it themselves.
Parent of a 6, 8, and 10 year old Written byMamaLlama3 August 22, 2014

Some positive messages amidst a lot of bad ideas for kids

I'm not sure why anyone liked this movie. The format is that of a home-movie so it's jumpy the whole time. My husband and I both thought we were going to get sick with all of the running and jumping and spinning. The bigger problem, however, is the situations that the boys choose to be in. In the course of the movie the boys all lie to their parents, ride bikes all over the desert alone at night, break into homes and businesses, steal a car, etc. One boy, "Munch", doesn't want to go along with any of it but his other "friends" pressure him into it. Yes there were some underlying "good" messages about sticking together and having your friend's back, but when your friend is doing illegal things, that's when you stand up for what's right - you don't go along with it. This movie was hard to watch and it was a horrible example for kids.
Educator and Parent Written bySeekingWholesome July 8, 2014

Inappropriate Language and Innuendo--Disappointing

Aside from suggesting to children that disobeying all authorities and stealing vehicles are admirable summer activities, this movie is full of language that unfortunately has become commonplace in our society but is, nevertheless, inappropriate for young viewers. Sexual innuendo forms a background thread throughout. Reviewers have emphasized how "cute" the entire movie is, but the only cute aspect is the physical appearance of "Echo." The Echo character appears only briefly throughout this film. Add to the surface disappointment the poor writing, character development and central message, which is supposed to be "I can do anything." Perhaps "Planes" will outdo this one, but I don't have much hope for those who are producing movies these days that are supposed to be good for children.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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