Earth to Echo

By Di Golding

Mailed on July 02, 2014

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Dear Reese Hartwig

Dear Reese,

When I was your age, there was nothing more annoying than an adult starting a sentence with the words "When I was your age…". I would roll my eyes and feign interest because I was raised to respect my elders. But when I was your age… wait, how old are you? IMDb doesn't say, but I'm guessing you could be anywhere between 11 and 28 since Hollywood is involved. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest to find out that you are older than Munch, the middle-schooler you play in Earth To Echo. You give the kind of unself-aware portrayal I would expect from either a toddler or an actor with more experience. But regardless of your age, kudos to you for delivering the most animated and endearing performance in a movie where the most endearing performance was supposed to come from an animated alien.

I used to hate when adults paid me a backhanded compliment like the one I just gave you. As a kid, that's exactly what bothered me about the children's movie genre; the feeling that I was being patronized. In many ways, Earth to Echo feels like the product of aggressive focus testing. This film has all the classic tropes of the tween/teen adventure genre - clueless parents, an annoying sibling, an evil government agency, mildly scary suspense, an adorable alien - and even adds a couple of new ones, namely the found footage trope. And no kid-venture movie would be complete without the rag-tag gang of friends featuring The Cautious One, The Nerd, The Joker, and The Brave One. Except, in this film, you get to play them all. Your character was so well imagined that the rest of the film, despite CGI and special effects, often seemed less dimensional in comparison.

I'm wondering if the writers, Henry Gayden and Andrew Panay had a "when I was a kid…" brainstorming session before starting the script about boys who find an alien named Echo and have to help him get home. There are so many, well, I'll be charitable and call them "homages" to 80s movies that I stopped counting. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, except for the fact that once referenced, it was hard not to compare those movies to yours, though this probably won't be an issue for Earth to Echo's target demographic. Your character, Munch, is an amalgam of Chunk from The Goonies, Wolfgang from Explorers,Vern from Stand By Me, David from WarGames and Elliot from E.T. In a slightly more modern homage, there's even a moment when you get to be Heather from Blair Witch Project, snot bubbles and all.

Despite the how other actors had little love stories and more prominent perspectives, you had the stand-out role. That you get some of the best lines in the film is by design, but that you hit every one out of the park is talent, my young friend.

So let me start again. When I was your age, I would have loved Earth to Echo. As an adult I found its obvious plot and lack of credible suspense a little too immature for me. But as a kid, that wouldn't have bothered me much, because I was always more interested in the characters. I used to imagine myself as one of the members of the gang, and had Earth to Echo come out in 1985, I know Munch would have been the one I wanted to be.

When I was your age that would have been pretty rad.

Hoping Munch gets a spin-off series,


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