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FLIX: 'Earth to Echo'

By BY JOE FRIAR
July 2, 2014 at 2:02 a.m.

"Earth to Echo"

EARTH TO ECHO

• CAST: Teo Halm, Brian "Astro" Bradley, Ella Linnea Wahlestedt, Reese C. Hartwig, Jason Gray-Stanford, Mary Pat Gleason, Tiffany Espensen, Myk Walford

• DIRECTOR: Dave Green

• OPENED: Wednesday at Cinemark 12

"Earth to Echo" pays homage to all those great films from the eighties like "E.T.," "Goonies," "Explorers" and even the recent "Super 8."

Writer Henry Gayden and director Dave Green have taken these classics and reworked them into a storyline that's contemporary by incorporating references like texting, YouTube and iPhones.

With a movie like this, you have to be able to make the young cast seem like real kids, from their mannerisms to the way they speak, and Green accomplishes this by giving the actors the freedom to contribute to the script, and combined with the found-footage style of shooting, the film feels natural and genuine.

Sure, "E.T." has some great special effects, and he was cute, but it was the young cast (Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore) that made that film so special.

Teo Halm plays Alex, a foster kid living in suburbia, where he spends most of his time with his two best friends, Tuck (Brian "Astro" Bradley) and Munch (Reese Hartwig).

The usually inseparable three have come to the realization they may never see each other again because of a highway expansion that has caused everyone in the neighborhood to relocate.

When the trio start receiving interference and strange signals on their smart phones - "barfing" according to Tuck - Munch, the tech wizard of the group, determines the transmissions are coming from the middle of the desert.

So along with classmate Emma (Ella Linnea Wahlestedt), the four hop on their bikes and ride off to find the source of the mysterious signal.

If you've seen the trailer or the poster, then you know Echo is the cutest little robot-looking owl since Bubo in "Clash of the Titans."

Suspense builds as we anticipate the first glance of this loveable little alien, which was designed by 19-year-old Ross Tran, who was living at home with his parents in Santa Cruz while going to school.

He received a phone call from Green after designer friends gave him Tran's number, and a few days later, the sketches were done, and Echo was born.

The special effects in the film are impressive, especially since they were working on a relatively small budget.

Green even told me while I was interviewing him about the film that one scene was shot with an iPhone.

The young cast of actors are a talented bunch.

Astro, you may remember, was the first rapper to perform on "The X-Factor" in 2011, and he will be seen next in a film opposite Liam Neeson, his mom's favorite actor.

If you're looking for a fun film the whole family can enjoy, then make sure you check out "Earth to Echo," the perfect summer adventure.

RATING: 31/2 stars

Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, Houston Film Critics Society and juror at the Victoria TX Independent Film Festival. He reviews films every Friday on Hit Radio 104.7 KVIC. Contact Joe at jfriar95@gmail.com.

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