Tuck, Munch and Alex are a trio of close knit friends living in a small town due to be destroyed by a highway construction project, which means their families have to move out of the neighbourhood. When the boys start receiving strange encoded messages on their mobile phones, they set about trying to solve the mystery. On their last night together, the boys embark on an epic adventure into the desert that leads to an amazing discovery...an alien trying to find his way home.
The boys, joined by school friend Emma, have to help the alien, that they call Echo, to rebuild his device, find his ship and protect him from the government agents who are hot on their heels.
Their journey is documented by Tuck for his video channel, and the film uses this 'found footage' along with a first person narrative as a vehicle for the story. This format keeps it all very pacy and relevant to its young target audience.
The film has been hailed as 'ET for a new generation'. There are definite glimpses of ET, Flight of the Navigator and Batteries Not Included in this movie, but the main character Echo takes a bit of a backseat to the overriding theme of friendship and growing up. I would have liked to have seen more of Echo, because when he did do things, it was really impressive! He is also a really cute little creature and I would have liked to explore his story a bit more.
The young cast are great and the relationship between them felt authentic. Their friendship and the threat of losing their homes and each other is explored through their experience with Echo. It's a coming of age movie where the children learn the true meaning of loyalty, friendship and courage as they strive to do what is ultimately the right thing (even if that entails the slightly dubious activities of breaking and entering, trespassing and car theft!)
There are a few great action sequences. But I was left wanting more because Echo's ability to manipulate metal objects created some awesome moments and ingenious special effects. One particular scene involving a close shave with a lorry was simply brilliant.
All in all, this is a great film for older children who will enjoy the human element of the story and the coming of age adventure that the four kids go through. The sci-fi element is not the biggest part of the film and the alien is not the lead character, but it provides the background to the plot and gives the characters the life lessons that leads them to summise that friendship is friendship, no matter how many miles lie between you, and that you can make a difference in this world.
Release date November 17th 2014.