This film was directed by Dave Green and this was his first full length feature following a number of shorts including Dial M For Murder. It is written by Henry Gayden who again hadn’t worked on a film before but had worked with Green in the past on TV projects.
The story centres on three young boys / teenagers who are facing up to being separated due to plans to tarmac over their town to build a new freeway. The day before they are forced to go their separate ways they find out mobile phones are going crazy and discover one of the images appearing on the screen is a map. They decide to go for one final night of adventure which proves to be more than they bargained for …
There’s no getting away from the fact that this film is a mix of the Goonies (1985) and ET (1982). Kids following a map while helping an alien try to go home. This means that if originality is your cup of tea this isn’t the film for you. Personally I enjoyed it because I thought it was well executed. I appreciated the effort the film makers made to give each of the kids a solid back story and depth of character. There was a clear motivation for why they were friends. They are outsiders, each with their own problems whether it be issues with their family, OCD tendencies, or being fostered.
Clearly the alien in the story is an outsider as well so there is reason for the kids to go to the efforts they ultimately, do risking arrest and injury, for a fellow kindred spirit. You also get the sense of teenage awkwardness such as trying to talk to girls or being pushed around by the older kids in high school.
I was a little concerned at first when I realised this was going to be a hand held, kids filmed it themselves affair, a lot like the found footage craze that was once considered trendy. I didn’t mind it and in certain scenes the frantic edge that this approach added was a bonus. The slight cheat for me was they introduced a pair of glasses with a hidden camera that allowed them to film from more than one viewpoint. It also sets up an interview scene that I won’t divulge anything about even though I doubt it will come as a surprise.
I struggled to pick any big holes in the film and taking into account it’s the first feature film for director and screenwriter it does bode quite well for the future. The acting from such a young cast was solid if unspectacular, I wasn’t always engaged at the beginning but I was won over by the end. It’s well worth a watch by families as it’s better than most films of its type.