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In 1985, Warner Brothers released a PG movie called “The Goonies,” an action-adventure movie targeted directly at kids, specifically that 10-14-year-old age bracket that clamored for something more than cartoons, but wasn’t quite ready for Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Though it wasn’t particularly successful at the box office (never came in higher than No. 2 on any given week and isn’t even in the top 1,000 movies ever made for gross receipts), “The Goonies” lived on through TV reruns and in the affections of those kids who saw it and remembered it with nostalgia.
Alas, “The Goonies” is also the film I hear most frequently cited by parents as a movie they remember fondly from childhood but are shocked today, some 30 years later, by the amount of foul language and other objectionable content contained therein. The standards for content and family friendliness really have changed dramatically since the “dirty age” of Hollywood in the 1980s.
But now that formula for nostalgic success – minus the objectionable content – has been followed again in the inspiring, funny and action-packed PG adventure movie “Earth to Echo.”
The entire film is shot through the camera of a (roughly) 13-year-old aspiring moviemaker named Tuck, as he longs to film something of value to post to YouTube. What he and his friends find, however, is far better than a moment of YouTube fame, but a strange message on their smart phones, leading them to the location of an injured, mechanical alien they name Echo, who really just wants to go home.
Part “Goonies,” part “E.T.” and part prolonged YouTube footage, “Earth to Echo” may put off some older audiences with its youthful and contemporary visual style, but my 12-year-old daughter absolutely loved it, and I can see why.
The movie touches on any number of themes that its target audience can understand: insecurity about being a “nerd,” fears of abandonment, loyalty to close friends, worries about change and feelings of insignificance, to name a few.
The last of those themes really becomes the primary message of the movie, hinted by an early line of dialogue, “You have no power to stop it, because you’re just a kid. Just a kid.”
After a harrowing adventure of trying to help Echo and running from menacing government men trying to capture their new alien friend, the team of pals come to realize there’s no such thing as “just a kid.”
“When you’re a kid, you think you’re invisible,” states Tuck in a final moment of reflection. “You think you can’t make a difference. We’re not ‘kids’ anymore. We know that we can do anything.”
The actors in the film do an excellent job of seeming like genuine teens, without pretention or overdramatizing, and the camera work is gripping, making it feel more like you’re actually experiencing the action on screen yourself. That pre-teenage kid who’s ready to go beyond “Frozen,” that audience member who loved “The Avengers” but recognizes “Iron Man” is a bit too oversexualized, that kid is going to love “Earth to Echo.”
Admittedly, the kids in the film do engage in a number of activities that parents in the audience won’t want their children emulating – lying, sneaking off at night, stealing and driving underage, to name a few. The insignificance the kids in the movie feel at the beginning is overcome, in part, by daring one another to thrill seek a bit and rebel against authority. Truthfully, if it weren’t for Echo’s intervention, these kids would have gotten in a whole heap of trouble.
Consequently, I can’t quite give “Earth to Echo” a perfectly glowing, kid-friendly endorsement.
Yet the film is rated PG for a reason. It means “parental guidance” recommended. And with that recommendation firmly in place, I think a whole new generation of preteens and kids will find “Earth to Echo” a fun, encouraging and exciting movie with a positive message and a film they may even remember fondly when they have children – only without “The Goonies” brand of bad mouthing.
- “Earth to Echo,” rated PG, contains 7 exclamations of “crap” and “hell” and 14 uses of “Oh my God.” It has no other obscenities or profanities.
- The film has a handful of minor, sexual or lewd references and an ongoing joke about a boy who has lied to his pals about kissing a girl. Stumbling into an alcohol-laden party of older teens, the main characters do encounter a couple making out and some more revealing clothing.
- The movie has some minor violence and plenty of action adventure and jump scenes – some of which may be frightening to small children – but no injuries, deaths or gore.
- The film has no overt religious or occult references.