Escape From Tomorrow
Blu-ray l DVD l Instant l Netflix
Directed by Randy Moore
Written by Randy Moore
Starring Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez, and Jack Dalton
Not Rated | 90 Minutes
Release Date: January 18, 2013 (Sundance)
As a middle class father of two small children, I can attest to the stress and outright fear parents have in regards to Disney. Whereas Disney used to be a bastion of princes and princesses shrouded in the cloud of a particular happy mouse, in recent years Disney has become an almost omnipotent global force, controlling sports network ESPN, Marvel, and Star Wars. Basically if you have children of any age, you are a customer of Disney whether you like it not. Itâ€™s many a childâ€™s dream to visit one of the countless Disney theme parks. However the childâ€™s dream very often is a parentsâ€™ nightmare. Enter Randy Moore, the visionary director of the unbelievably surreal Escape From Tomorrow which debuted at Sundance in 2013.
Moore did not have positive Disney experiences as a child, and OH BOY you can tell. While some critics have called this â€œa mid-life crisis movie,â€ I feel something darker and deeper afoot.
We meet the typical American family: dad Jim (Roy Abramsohn), mom Emily (Elena Schuber), and cute kids Elliot and Sara (Jack Dalton and Katelynn Rodriguez). We find out right away from the balcony at their Disney hotel that Jim has been fired. The horror of losing your job while at the most expensive theme park in the world is enough to make a scary movie, but Moore pushes the envelope. He proudly did NOT get permission from Disney to film on their premises, and instead uses guerrilla filmmaking to get his in park shots (checkout Escapefromtomorrow.com to see the “we haven’t got sued” countdown). His crew used handheld digital cameras and digital audio devices. The cast read their scripts off smart phones. The film is black and white which again adds a surreal creepiness as you mentally associate Disney with vibrant colors everywhere.
Jim quickly begins to lose it in every way. Emily is on his case about everything and turns down his advances on one ride. On â€œitâ€™s a small worldâ€ he begins to see things, dark faces and demon eyes. He very blatantly follows two young French girls throughout the park, dragging both his kids at different times. When Sara walks him through a magic treehouse he loses track of her in a scene I found particularly horrifying. When Sara falls and scrapes her knee, the nurse tries to make her feel better before breaking down crying. No one seems to really be having fun at this park. Could it be the cat flu? That canâ€™t be a real thing could it?
I canâ€™t really describe much more of the plot without spoiling it, but suffice to say Jimâ€™s descent into madness is fascinating, both dreamlike and completely genuine at the same time. A heart wrenching scene involves his confession to his wife that he lost his job (after getting wasted in Epcotâ€™s German beer hall). The kids are looking at souvenirs and suddenly the realization makes even the smallest trinket a burden. The reactions feel painfully real.
This film is NOT for everyone, but I highly recommend it anyway. If you absolutely LOVE Disney you may want to avoid for fear of having some of your childhood trounced upon. The last 20 minutes spiral totally out of control. I felt it worked and the ending is even more haunting than the previous hour. This film worked for me as satire, surrealism, and horror, and Mooreâ€™s themes of materialism, false fantasy, and anti-corporation are sometimes so obvious youâ€™ll feel assaulted by them. This was Mooreâ€™s debut as a writer/director and itâ€™s not hard to see a bright future ahead. Imagine how good a film he can make when not going guerrilla against one of the world’s biggest companies. Escape From Tomorrow is free with a Netflix streaming subscription, $3.99 on Amazon Instant Video, and also available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
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