Escape From Tomorrow (2013)
Starring: Roy Abramson, Elena Schuber
Directed by: Randy Moore
Synopsis: Surrealistic comedy/thriller about a man’s descent into madness while vacationing at Walt Disney World.
- I have just returned from Walt Disney World myself with my family and definitely saw or identified with what the writer/director was trying to mock and point out with the park and its ideals. I saw this film twice now, once at the beginning of the year and the second time a few months back to show my wife after we booked the vacation. It’s a fun flick—not to be taken seriously of course but how can one not slowly go insane if they had to ride “It’s a Small World” more than a few times? These are the scenarios that the main protagonist, Jim experiences while in the Magic Kingdom after he learns that he was fired from his job. While I love Disney World and experiencing it again, now as a father of two girls, it still holds a very special and charming place in my heart but there definitely is a macabre and sinister vibe to the park depending on one’s cynicism and demeanor. I’m a laid-back kind of guy with a somewhat sunny disposition but seeing such a happy place could be a cause of alarm for someone like me perhaps. There’s no way that there’s such a happy and friendly place in the United States. I’m from Jersey and I pride myself on a keen distrust of strangers and minding my own damn business but there at Disney, that place is sometimes way too friendly.
- I should point out that this is not a Disney sanctioned or produced film. The filmmakers shot this film incognito and in guerrilla-style which is pretty impressive in some cases, since the actors are performing on rides and lines for the rides some of the time. If they didn’t get it on the first take, they would’ve had to reshot on the ride again. Painstaking work. Also, in a way, this film was made illegally since it breaks copyright and intellectual property laws, I’m sure. However, the Mouse House was nice enough to either see the humor or didn’t want to controversy making a mountain of the molehill and decided to ignore this feature.
- Like I’ve said, I have been to Disney World as a kid, the last time being close to 2 decades ago as a young adult really and you definitely see things differently as an adult and with the changing times. Case in point, the abundance of motorized riding carts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing the handicapped, but when we were there last week, I couldn’t look in any direction without seeing a few motorized carts in the park. I don’t remember, as a kid, so many wheelchair-bound patrons back in the day before the motorized cart so why so many now? I’m sure some actually need it but I’m sure more than half don’t. I’ve seen a lot of people in the carts park them and then walk to a line for something. Are they lazy? Are they just too obese to walk very far and taking advantage of the new technology of the electric wheel? You’re guess is as good as mine but I had a great new appreciation for the fact that in the film, there’s a very menacing motorized character in the film basically annoying and terrorizing Jim and his kids.
- The surrealism and comedy are very decently written in the film. Moore, takes the charm and joy of the family-friendly rides and park attractions and turns them on their ear and makes them either threatening or ominous like the kids in “It’s a Small World” who start to make evil faces at Jim and give him hallucinations. Jim also has acid-like visions on other rides like “Soarin'” and hears myths of the park like all the Disney Princesses are actually prostitutes pimped out to wealthy Japanese businessmen and the turkey drumsticks are really ostrich meat. A place so nice, friendly and happy has to have a dark secret right? The film plays on these assumptions and if you have even an ounce of doubt that Disney World is genuinely as perfect as it seems, then this film will entertain you enough.
What doesn’t work:
- One nitpick I have with the film is that it’s in Black and White. Of course, this isn’t a no classic movie B&W complaint—I love older flicks and I hate it when my friends used to complain when we watched a classic movie in B&W. But in this case, color would’ve really helped the surrealism and tone of the picture. Seeing Disney World, the bright and colorful attractions and rides as well as characters dull and desaturated of their colors works against the film in my opinion. Making it black and white robs the potential of better nightmarish and surrealistic scenes and opportunities to heighten the sinister aspect the filmmakers were trying to convey.
- The sci-fi/thriller plot is a very weak one. Jim discovers that underneath Spaceship Earth (The golfball sphere in Epcot) is a scientific lab that makes robotic humanoids and conducts tests of humans for the parks. There’s also a “cat flu” plot line that spirals into silliness by the film’s climax. These elements were just too wacky for what I thought the film was aspiring to be, which was one man’s slow descent into madness because of his own anxiety and fears exacerbated by the surrealistic nature of a children’s theme park about fairy tales. It just wasn’t interesting or well-written enough to be a modern Alice in Wonderland. Granted, this film was lucky enough to make it out of the Disney security guards, let alone be allowed to be shown on Netflix so I can somewhat see how a weak script is more or less necessary given the nature of the shoot.
Overall: Before my Disney World vacation I would’ve given this film a 4 or 5 grade but after seeing the parks again and experiencing the crazy myself, I gave the film a slightly higher score. I think it’s worth a look-see for the somewhat curious. The acting isn’t the worst given the amateurish careers of its actors. The comedy and absurdity of some of the scenes and scenarios make up for it. But it’s also worth seeing because of the guerrilla-style and illegal production. It’s very fascinating and awesome that the filmmakers were able to pull off such a difficult shoot.
Score: 7 Hidden Mickey Orgasms (out of 10)