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Along the way, Emma (Ella Wahlestedt), the middle-school blonde beauty that every boy wishes he had the nerve to talk to, joins the adventure. This is also unfortunate, because it feels like a ripoff of another film that took this premise—geeky boys joining up with a pretty girl on a secret quest—and developed it so much better: J.J. Abrams' Super 8. If only the dialogue, and the character formation, were half as good in Earth to Echo as in Super 8, we might have had a decent summer movie here. Instead, we only get distant echoes of something far better. (Even the ending, which I won't spoil here, is reminiscent of Super 8.)

Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt, Astro and Teo Halm in 'Earth to Echo'Image: Patrick Wymore / Relativity Media

Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt, Astro and Teo Halm in 'Earth to Echo'

When it's all over, you'll weep not for Echo, like you did for a certain irresistible alien who captured our hearts in 1982. As the credits roll on Earth for Echo, you'll just shrug your shoulders and say, "Dang. Let's go home and watch E.T."

Matter of fact, that's precisely what I suggest.

Caveat Spectator

Earth to Echo is rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language, though, frankly, I can't recall any language that was offensive . . . unlike E.T., which, also rated PG, includes a few choice phrases, and twice uses the s-word. The "peril" here is barely palpable, certainly less than you'll find on Saturday morning TV or many of today's video games. Earth to Echo is very family-friendly, fine for ages 8 and up.

Mark Moring, a former film and music editor at CT, is a writer at Grizzard Communications in Atlanta.

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Earth to Echo