For three 13-year-old boys, it's their last night together as pals before their suburban street is demolished for a freeway. They grow intrigued by some unknown force jamming their cell phones, and surmising the weird signals might be a map, they head out into the Nevada desert to investigate. There, they find a metal canister that appears to contain an alien — a friendly visitor who also needs some help getting back to its home planet.
Dave Green's comedy adventure indeed borrows some of E.T.'s story, and is reminiscent of other 1980s kids-on-a-quest films. (It also employs the more recent gimmick of using "found footage.") But today's kids likely haven't seen those old movies, so this low-key family film should seem fresh to them. I liked that the kids were kinda nerdy, and into creating their own adventures and doing problem-solving.
For my tastes, the alien looked too much like a cute, big-eyed steampunk owl — could there be another Portland in another galaxy? But I guess there's as much chance of other life forms looking like a keychain fob as like a green tentacled blob.