Sundance 2013: ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW Review

     January 25, 2013

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Randy Moore‘s Escape from Tomorrow will be remembered for how it was made.  Future discussions will revolve around its legality, and how Moore managed the task in the first place.  But when it comes to the actual picture, Moore works incredibly hard to come to a simple and fairly uninteresting theme.  Every time Moore hits a strong moment, he’ll continue to repeat that emotion and duplicate the event until it’s an absolute chore.  The movie can be absolutely bonkers, but its strangeness eventually feels like a gimmick rather than a hook.

Escape from Tomorrow begins with some effective opening credits before starting the story with a family going to spend a day at Disney World.  What should be a time at the most magical place on Earth becomes a dark fantasy for patriarch Jim (Roy Abramsohn).  He’s haunted by theme park rides where his hallucinations cause singing animatronics to become demonic, and he’s constantly distracted by two French teenage girls.  As the day continues, Jim becomes estranged from his wife and son, falls further into madness, paranoia, and possibly contracts “cat flu”.

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The biggest question currently surrounding Escape from Tomorrow has nothing to do with the actual theme of the movie.  For those who don’t know, Escape from Tomorrow was filmed illegally in Disney World and Epcot, and now we’re left to wonder if Disney’s lawyers will halt release of the movie or if it can be protected under Fair Use.  Moore had to be aware of the legality of his actions.  The name “Disney World” is mentioned, but the word “Disney” is bleeped.  Either way, we can’t help but wonder if Moore would have still made this movie if he had the money to build a Disney-parody park like Wally World from Vacation.

Using real Disney World is the film’s novelty, but like most novelties, its appeal quickly wears off and we’re eager to get to something substantial.  It’s not too difficult to make Disney World seem like a hellish landscape, especially if you shoot it in black-and-white, play up the contrast, tilt the camera, use lots of close-ups, and blast unsettling classical music.  Moore puts us inside Jim’s head, but we only see the same thing for almost the entire picture: this guy is having a miserable time and would rather be hooking up with French girls who are still in high school.

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For a theme park to enchant a frustrated husband and father like Jim, it would take more than a tram ride and animatronics to create a pleasurable experience.  The majority of the picture is Jim dragging his poor kids along so he can keep chasing down the attractive French teenagers.  Along the way, reality starts ripping apart just like Jim’s temptation is ripping apart his family.  His domestic responsibility is forcing him into the unhappiest place on Earth.  Even Moore seems to be aware of his film’s monotony as he makes desperate ploys to keep grabbing our attention even if these ploys don’t really build on anything that has come before.

It’s neat to know how movies are made, and the process of making the film can affect the story.  But shooting Escape from Tomorrow at Disney World doesn’t add a level of authenticity or contribute to Jim’s nightmarish trip through the Magic Kingdom.  Disney World has been around for so long and is such a big part of our culture that despite Moore’s attempts to twist the theme park to his narrative, his movie is dwarfed by its setting.  Escape from Tomorrow doesn’t have a clever or insightful take on how an adult perceives the fantasy of Disney World.  It just has Disney World.

Rating: C-

Click here for all our Sundance 2013 coverage.  Click on the corresponding links for my previous reviews:

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