Earth to Echo (PG). A big, happy surprise from start to finish, “Earth to Echo” should delight kids 7 and older. One of the preteen heroes, Tuck, narrates and records the whole adventure on video. He and his best friends — Alex, a sensitive foster kid, and Munch, a sweet OCD-ish hoarder — will soon be separated. Their families must move because a new highway will level their Nevada subdivision. On their last night together, the boys tell little lies to their folks and set off into the desert on their bikes. They intend to follow a map that has popped up on their weirdly malfunctioning cellphones. The map leads to a tiny, beeping robotic creature from space. It looks like a cute clockwork owl, and they name it Echo. Following its beeped “yes” and “no” instructions, they take it to a barn, a pawnshop and a biker bar, where it magnetically grabs parts to fix itself. Grown-up government types are hunting for Echo, too, and won’t let the kids get in their way.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There are threatening adults, car and bike chases and scenes in which Echo appears to be dying. Sober themes, such as Alex’s foster-kid trust issues and Munch’s compulsions, are treated honestly. One joke involves mild sexual innuendo.