So, I just finished Escape from Tomorrow, an independent black-and-white dark comedy directed by Randy Moore. Not just any old film, this was shot on location at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, guerrilla style, unbeknownst to Disney employees.
The story is mostly straightforward. Mostly. On the last day of his family vacation to Walt Disney World, Jim, played by Roy Abramsohn, learns that he’s been let go from Nameless Occupation #5. We first see him standing on the balcony of a room at the Contemporary Resort, overlooking the Magic Kingdom and the Seven Seas Lagoon.
From there, it’s a gradual descent into madness, both for Jim and for the viewer. And it all leads to a conspiracy that goes deep into the underbelly of Spaceship Earth.
Or something like that. I’m honestly not too sure.
The majority of the film involves Jim’s slow departure from reality, as he begins to detach himself from the bad news about his job, arguments with his wife, and the troubled relationship with his son. While at the park, he becomes obsessed with, and essentially stalks, a pair of young French girls, which is admittedly disturbing.
But then the hallucinations begin. Jim sees distorted faces on the child dolls of It’s A Small World and El Rio del Tiempo. He gets kidnapped, and Spaceship Earth appears to crumble. And that guy was a robot? One thing after another. It’s all very strange and disjointed.
And yet, in its strangeness, I found Escape from Tomorrow compelling. The story wanders, but the guerrila-style filmmaking kept me transfixed, wondering how they accomplished this shot, or filmed that scene, all under the nose of Disney World employees (although there was some use of sets and green screen).
If nothing else, it’s a wicked achievement.
I couldn’t help but notice a few inconsistencies, though. For one, Star Tours isn’t at the Magic Kingdom. Neither is the Matterhorn. That’s Disneyland. Although, to be fair, I know way more about the Disney theme parks than I probably should. Don’t ask.
To Disney’s credit, as I mentioned in an earlier post, they’ve essentially ignored the movie. Fair play to them, I guess. There were probably a number of ways they could have obstructed its release, but perhaps not making a big fuss prevented it from gaining the exposure that only a Hollywood controversy can achieve.
In an episode of Quick Cuts, Red Letter Media’s Jay Bauman describes much of Escape from Tomorrow as “a series of scenes that don’t really build on each other; they’re just sort of scenes, and then when they end you say, ‘Well, now that happened.'” I think that’s on point.
It’s weird stuff happening, continuously. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s just bizarre. And while the ending more or less explains (or at least provides possible interpretations for) why things happen the way they do, it doesn’t leave me with a feeling of “Oh, now I get it! Awesome!”
It’s more of an, “Okay, then.”
I didn’t hate it.
Verdict: I can’t say I’d recommend Escape from Tomorrow, not in the traditional sense. It’s weird. It meanders. But if what I said about its guerilla-style production has you intrigued, it might be worth a look. Maybe, and especially if you’ve ever been to a Disney theme park. It’s currently available on Netflix, either way.
Just keep in mind that, while it’s set at the “Happiest Place on Earth,” this is by no means a family film. At all.