Earth to Echo (PG). A big, happy surprise from start to finish, “Earth to Echo” should delight kids 7 and older. “Earth to Echo” is a story told by Tuck, a preteen who 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 on their bikes to follow a hunch. It involves their mysteriously malfunctioning cellphones, which all show a map of the desert. The map leads them 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 pawn shop and even a biker bar, where it magnetically grabs old and new parts to fix itself. Of course, there are grown-up government types hunting for Echo who won’t let the kids get in their way.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There are threatening adults and 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.
Transformers: Age of Extinction. Teen fans of the “Transformers” franchise can get their fill of high-tech destruction and battered vehicles morphing into gigantic metal warriors. The film is fine for all teens, though it runs on endlessly — and loudly. Cade (Mark Wahlberg), a broke Texas inventor, buys a junky old tractor-trailer rig and discovers it’s a Transformer in hiding — the good kind, an Autobot, not an evil Decepticon. Armed CIA guys in black SUVs descend on his property, demanding the Autobot. They even threaten to kill Cade’s teenage daughter, Tessa. A shoot-out with guns and Transformer rockets breaks out in Cade’s yard. Then the chase is on, with Tessa’s car-racing boyfriend at the wheel.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The digitally rendered 3-D mayhem involves massive damage, but we see almost no humans hurt or killed. Low-grade profanity peppers the dialogue — there’s much use of the S-word — along with mild sexual innuendo involving Cade’s misgivings about his daughter and her slightly older boyfriend.
Tammy. Melissa McCarthy plays yet another combative, friendless slob in this okay-for-high-schoolers but depressingly flat-footed comedy. Far too lewd for middle-schoolers, the film may partially satisfy McCarthy’s fans, but it is one badly cobbled-together farce. Tammy loses her fast-food job for lateness, slovenliness and rudeness. She goes home early, only to find her husband having a meal with his apparently longtime girlfriend. Sobbing and cursing, Tammy goes up the block to her mom’s, borrows her car and hits the road with her booze-guzzling Grandma Pearl. After car wrecks and criminal mischief, they land at their cousin Lenore’s fabulous house in time for a lesbian Fourth of July party and for Pearl and Tammy to get their lives in order.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The movie runs on crude sexual slang, midrange profanity and rude gestures. Pearl’s alcoholism is treated as a joke until near the end.
Begin Again. Rated R mostly for language, “Begin Again” would be a fine entertainment — with parental permission — for high-schoolers who love stories that focus deeply on characters, not action or effects. Mark Ruffalo plays Dan, a recording executive who has lost his magic touch and gets fired from the company he co-founded. Estranged from his wife and teen daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) because of his drinking, Dan hits bottom. Sitting in a Manhattan club in a boozy stupor, he hears Gretta (Keira Knightley) sing a song she wrote. Inspired by her talent, he persuades the songwriter, who’s moping over her rock-star boyfriend’s betrayal, to shoot a video album of her songs all over New York. The creative experience changes both of their lives.
The bottom line: The script includes strong profanity and some crude language. Characters — especially Dan — drink heavily throughout, and Dan also smokes. People make verbal drug references. There is frisky but nongraphic sexual innuendo.
Deliver Us From Evil. Too dark, grim and violent for viewers younger than 17 without parental permission, this moderately effective thriller mixes a classic “police procedural” with a tale of demonic possession. Ralph Sarchie, a hardened detective working the South Bronx, handles a case involving a deranged woman who tosses her baby into a lion’s den at the zoo. After witnessing the baby’s mother in custody growl like she’s possessed, Sarchie accepts the help of a priest who does exorcisms.
The bottom line: There is graphic one-on-one violence, realistic as well as supernatural, throughout, along with strong profanity. Gruesome images include a decaying body that bursts and a decomposing, crucified cat. After a verbal discussion of a crime involving child molestation and murder, we see the partly covered, clothed body of the child.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.