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“He was out in the middle of nowhere, on his own. Like us.”

“He” is Echo, an extraterrestrial who looks like a charmingly wide-eyed robot owl — and who just wants to go home. “Us” is a trio of tween boys — Alex (Teo Halm), Tuck (Brian “Astro” Bradley) and Munch (Reese Hartwig) — in a suburban Nevada subdivision, who find Echo one night while exploring on their bikes. (They’re later joined by a girl, played by Ella Linnea Wahlestedt.) And yes, “Earth to Echo” is “E.T.,” or rather an affectionate 21st-century homage to “E.T.” Told in jittery but appealing found-footage style, with the ever-texting boys capturing the story on video, it’s not quite Spielberg, but it’s good fun for the just-out-of-school crowd. (“Awesome!” was the final verdict of my 9-year-old gentleman guest.)

The three friends, like Elliott in “E.T.” (though they’re a little older), are going through a rough patch: Their neighborhood is being demolished by a highway construction project, so all of the families are in the process of moving away. Alex, Tuck and Munch have the kind of bond formed by three kids who don’t quite fit in; they know that a big goodbye is forthcoming but aren’t sure how to say it. The search for Echo, and subsequent race to figure out how to help him, gives them something else to focus on; along the way, they’re reminded that almost anything’s possible if you stick with your friends, work together and remember how to get home.

A nice message, in any decade.

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Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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