Escape From Tomorrow (2013) Review

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Unrated

90 min.

Written & Directed By Randy Moore

‘Bad things happen everywhere’ states the tag-line for Randy Moore’s bizarre journey down the Disney rabbit hole, Escape from Tomorrow. This is a sentiment as true as it terrifying, and Moore makes it clear to everyone throughout his film’s running time that this has never been more true than in the case of Disney World. The story of this secret film production has seemingly become legend over the course of the past few months, and when you sit down and actually see the final product, it’s safe to say that even in your wildest dreams you couldn’t have imagineered this one. Embracing the terrors of both family vacation and mid-life crisis, Randy Moore’s Escape from Tomorrow is a true original from beginning to end.

Escape tells the story of a family of four vacationing at the famous Disney World resort. The father, Jim (Roy Abramsohn), receives the news that he has been let go from his job on the morning of their last day at the resort, and what follows is a strange meditation on the concept of losing your mind at the supposed happiest place on earth.

Positives:

  • It’s Bat-Shit Crazy – Now honestly, I can’t stress this enough. While Escape has certainly gotten its fair share of mainstream press, it’s the kind of film that seems destined to be embraced by hardcore cinephiles and not many others. It’s as much an experimental film as it is a satire on fatherhood and all the things Disney has become known for. It shifts between genres at the drop of the hat, although I would call the film a horror-comedy if forced to give it such a label. It’s bat-shit craziness is its strength, and Moore wears all of this insanity on his sleeve. At times it feels like David Lynch decided to bring a camera with him on Splash Mountain, and the film is all the better for it. The ending, man, where do I even start? It’s nuts, and although I certainly did not completely understand it, I admired it just the same.
  • It’s Hilarious – At the center of the film is a performance by one Roy Abramsohn, whose Jim is experiencing every father’s worst family vacation nightmare. His son doesn’t care about him, in fact, he only cares about one thing: waiting in the lengthy line for the Buzz Lightyear ride. Jim’s daughter is constantly running off and his wife, Emily, doesn’t believe in showing him any amount of affection no matter how secluded they may be. Escape could essentially be viewed as the perfect depiction of a mid-life crisis on film, yet with this depiction comes an absurd sense of humor. Abramsohn’s performance as Jim is certainly up to the comedic challenge. As he is making us wince with his longing stares at underage scantily-clad females, he is at the same time making us laugh. Jim is hapless and pathetic and has no idea what the hell is doing, neither as a parent nor as a believed-to-be sane human being. Moore gives Abramsohn plenty of absurdist comedic material to work with, and it is these very moments that make Escape such an enjoyable ride. It’s one of the most fun movie-going experiences I’ve had all year.
  • Cinematography – For a film shot guerrilla-style at one of the most heavily-populated places in the world, Escape sure looks a lot better than I expected. Shot in a stunning black and white which only helps the film’s uneasy atmosphere, Moore and his cinematographer Lucas Lee Graham seemed to get all the material they needed and then some. The film always looks good, with stand-out sequences on a various number of the theme park’s rides. Some shots are even dream-like, only heightening the film’s claustrophobic nature. Disney World’s never looked so good, nor has it ever been shot so menacingly.

Negatives:

  • It Never Quite Comes Together – While one of the main reasons I enjoyed the film so much is its willingness to surprise the audience and embrace its odd atmosphere, the film never completely gets to a point where you know exactly what its aim is. Now, this criticism could be viewed as much a strength as it is a weakness, as because Moore never points you in a specific direction you are able to let your imagination run away with you (which could be argued to be the film’s ultimate intention). The third act is its own brand of insanity and the ending is certainly one that poses as many questions as it does answer them. This is sure to frustrate a good amount of the audience, but I’d argue that if you stick with the film ’til the end you probably have come to expect such a finale. While the film loses its focus at times and can certainly be frustrating to those not used to such a loose narrative, I’d argue that ultimately things don’t come together because that’s exactly what Randy Moore intended. Whether it’s completely satisfying or not, well, that is ultimately up to you.

In an early sequence in the film, Jim and his family take a ride on the infamous It’s A Small World. As someone who has personally experienced this very ride and lived to tell the tale, it is without question one of the most haunting experiences of my life. Anyway, as Jim moves deeper into the ride, we get the first glimpses that everything may not be as it seems. Frightening faces appear as Jim begins to have hallucinations, if that’s what you want to call it. It’s hard to imagine that Randy Moore wasn’t completely aware of what he was doing with this particular sequence. Setting the film’s absurdity in motion on one of the most divisive theme park rides in the history of the world may not be subtle, but it’s exactly what lets you know you’re in good hands for the rest of the film’s running time. Moore understands that although we may all have one image of Disney, when placed in the right (or is that wrong) circumstances that image can change in an instant. When it comes to It’s A Small World, that instant is far too long.

8/10