Here’s your WTF movie of 2013 – new writer/director Randy Moore’s daring Escape from Tomorrow, a bizarre psychological nightmare about visiting Walt Disney World, as shot on Disney land with zero permission. Captured in black-and-white using cameras that look like any regular tourist tool, the project had a severely vulnerable existence which could have been canceled in one phone call, at any point in its filmmaking process. And yet, almost a year after premiering to the world via Sundance, M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E remains silent, the film finally being distributed to audiences who have no clue what kind of ride Moore is going to take them on.
Escape from Tomorrow borrows from the beginning of a hundred million other vacations: a generic family of four staying at a hotel on the Disney premises, their last day of theme park attendance upon them. Jim (Roy Arbamsohn) is dad to two innocent blonde kids (Katelyn Rodriguez and Jack Dalton), and husband to shrewd spouse Emily (Elena Schuber) who treats him as a third child. While taking their kids on various rides, Jim’s mind goes elsewhere. He has visions of demonic faces while riding “It’s a Small World,” and gawks at the same two young French girls who constantly cross his path. Later, he runs into a woman, who may or may not be a wicked witch, who advises him that the turkey is made from emu. A handful of bizarre events later, and Escape from Tomorrow becomes an acid trip that really takes off in the third act, where its Disney-venting shoots up into the artsy stratosphere.
Moore’s recreation of a family focuses more on caricature than character, boosting such an idea by supporting shaky line-readings from Abramsohn and Schuber, off some dialogue that ain’t so sturdy itself. Some explanation down the road provides a little more depth to this, but it’s tedious at first. Jim, especially, is a trying character throughout this whole journey.
Escape from Tomorrow criticizes the delusional dust hawked by Disney by making for a hallucinogenic experience of its own. It sends the mind scurrying to numerous question marks, from the endless curiosity about how the damn thing got made, before and after it stomped all over billion dollar copyrights, to the film’s own uncertain establishing of its own reality. It is a fascinating piece of weird moviemaking; here’s one bid in favor of total artistic anarchy.
Those venturing into this movie for some Disney damning should know that Escape from Tomorrow ain’t no Blackfish, referring to the recent documentary that gave a Kevin-Bacon-in Tremors-esque “F**************k yooouuu!” to SeaWorld with scandalous recounts followed up by direct indictments. Escape from Tomorrow, while placing its average family into recognizable Disney rides and characters, is malleable to the experience of any populated attraction that can shine the worst in its visitors. Moore’s film is replete with artistic kneejerk criticisms to the experience of Disney, a dream-catcher-recording of the nightmares he must have had after the first time he stepped into Magic Kingdom as a father, and not a child. His concept of observing the Disney empire’s entrapment of imagination is flimsy as well, as numerous theme parks share the same mission of selling fantasy to their visitors (from New Hampshire’s StoryLand to South Carolina’s uber-racist South of the Border). In scientific terms, Escape from Tomorrow leaves an ajar door concerning whether its visitors are causes of the empire, or effects.
Standing as another example for the storytelling power of the Canon 5D, Escape from Tomorrow looks pretty good for a film shot with a tourist’s potential, with a nightmarish amount of takes lost to unscripted visitors blocking shots, or even taking seats on the various rides shown in certain scenes. A particularly dreamy (and noteworthy) aesthetic can be found in its soundtrack, with its opening piece a string-sweeping thing of fairytale sunlight, which rings in my head even the next day. It joins a strange assortment of specific song collections borrowed from arthouse greatest movies, such as Blue, Fahrenheit 451, and Youth Without Youth.
Escape from Tomorrow toys with the perverse experience of Disney by equating it with dorky dad sexual fantasy, an unnecessary direction considering the commentary due to be made about the surroundings, and not the character. As Jim continues to stalk the two Lolitas (one of whom has braces), Escape from Tomorrow distracts itself, raising the question of whether Moore has beef with sitcom-standard middle-aged dads more than initial topic Disney.
Moore gives Jim his bits of intrigue as the writer/director essentially forces us to watch a movie [this one] made by this character. It’s got Jim’s dumb hands all over it, from spontaneous jizz jokes to a hard cut that marriages empty beautiful spaces with a man aggressively shitting. The characters come from his impressions as well, his “Emily Dickson and Tina Fey” wife remaining a shallow interpretation of a mother throughout.
Or, to take it even further, is it Moore who is actually to blame for all of this, including the spotty line-reading and ridiculous nudges of fantasy? Or is Moore just excusing himself, (or confusing himself?!) with this aloof oaf of a character? And the turkey leg is made from emu? WTF?
With all of its obtuse moments, Moore’s debut, its super ballsinsess and all, makes for one potent experimental revisit to an American holy land. Escape from Tomorrow is like taking a few too many red pills and blue pills, all while watching repeats of Steamboat Willie. Imagination and reality swirl, Moore brings down the mouse, and the rabbit hole deepens.
Den of Geek Rating: 3.5 Out of 5 Stars