The filmmakers behind Earth to Echo thought it was an oversight that films like The Goonies, Stand by Me and E.T. don’t exist anymore, but they were wrong. Live-action, kid-adventure films have disappeared largely because they’re shockingly irresponsible. And, to succeed, they need to be.
Reflect on the treasure chest of children’s adventure movies from the 1970s-'90s. Here’s what they have in common:
- Kids make choices that put them in dangerous situations, and they come out unscathed.
- The foul mouths on these kids would make Gordon Ramsey blush.
- Kids lie to or disrespect their parents.
Of course, these tactics are not mom approved! And, as parent groups began raising their voices and holding back on their pocketbooks, big movie studios found it safer not to “go there.” So now, Earth to Echo screenwriter Henry Gayden says moviemaking is a different environment. “You don’t know how hard we had to fight for [a 13-year-old character to say] ‘scary as balls,’ I’m not kidding! And, ‘crap’ was a little bit of a fight, too. You could say that stuff in the ‘80s, you could smoke in the ‘80s! Now, you can’t do any of that.”
Earth to Echo tries to balance moments of irresponsibility with conscious responsibility. For instance, the group sets out for an overnight adventure on their bicycles, but one character insists they wear helmets. The unlicensed 13-year-olds “borrow” a car, but when they must outdrive the bad guys, they decide not to speed. When the group has to enter a biker bar, they refuse the offer for a “drink” (it’s nonalcoholic, but they don’t know that). The results are laugh-out-loud moments: kids trying to make good choices within the context of the poor choices they’ve already made.
But the question is, is it possible to make an entertaining movie depicting kids’ friendship developing into a lifelong bond where they kids don’t do anything dangerous or irresponsible? And, the flip side is, when we were kids, these “irresponsible” films bonded us with our friends and provided us with a sense of our own power. So, is it irresponsible, or even selfish, that in trying to protect our kids we’ve prevented them from getting the same type of experience?
Earth to Echo opens Wednesday, July 2, and is appropriate for kids who are seven and older.
Here are films you can watch this weekend with your family:
Transformers: Age of Extinction. Boys already love the Transformers trilogy, but with this fourth film, director Michael Bay ups the ante. The film stars Oscar-nominated guy’s guy Mark Wahlberg and vehicles that transform into dinosaur robots… Dinobots!