After the Disneyland antics on Exit Through The Gift Shop, I guess it was only a matter of time before somebody decided to make an entire guerrilla feature inside Orlando’s Magic Kingdom, and the whole of Disney World. The result, Escape From Tomorrow has its queer moments, indeed, many have described it as ‘weird’ or perhaps the ultimate compliment in modern surreal filmmaking, ‘Lynchian,’ but I think a better description is ‘ill-formed.’
The resulting 90 minute feature, which likely feel a bit of a stretch at 60 minutes, is the embryo of an halfway decent theme – albeit one that was not particularly a new one 35 years ago – where success hinges completely on execution. And in that, Escape From Tomorrow is sorely lacking. Not really a best-worst film in the vein of The Room or Troll 2, as the actors are mostly competent and conservative used CGI is solid enough. Even the framing is surprisingly good considering the filmmakers had no legal way of setting up angles and cameras while working on the sly. The well shot majority only underscores when the ungainly minority. The green-screen and soundstage work to jury-rig the narrative together, likely to get scenes that were not easily doable with themepark security around, undo the inkling of a spell Moore and his cinematographer Lucas Lee Graham begin to weave. The rest is undone by the padding (or lack of pacing – your call) in the set-up.
After losing his job on the last day of their vacation, Jim opts not to tell his family and make the most of their last day in the Magic Kingdom. By ‘enjoy’ that is to say, humid weather, long lines, and their kids either demanding food or trinkets in that petulant and whiny voice that comes to 21st century children so naturally. His wife, Emily, is often depicted at wits end and takes it by knocking Jim out at the knees. There is no doubt that dragging two small children around the wide network of theme parks in ever-groomed Florida swampland has its emotional toll. A scene involving the application of sunscreen, while delivered a tad broad, is something likely plays around the pools and water-parks daily. This constant emasculation by his increasingly shrewish wife gives Jim license to rebel against the whole notion of familial responsibility by stalking two attractive French teens, often with either his son or daughter in tow. As the day presses onwards, he gets mighty drunk at Epcot Centre, and in his own woe-is-me narcissism starts to hallucinate a bigger plot at work, either the park and its denizens are actively out to humiliate him, or something far more nefarious involving ‘Stepfording’ or ‘Bodysnatching’ him out of existence. That is never clear, and clearly doesn’t matter all that much. The whole thing is more a hallucination of his anxieties than literal truth.
Maybe we do not dream in colour? The film in sharp Black and White, which I am guessing offered better light balance when shooting under less than ideal conditions. Like many a constraint, however, it actually helps with generating a ‘not-quite-right’ feeling in taking such a kaleidoscopic environment and re-framing it as blanche-noir. Far from taking himself too serious, Moore offers a smattering of bare breasts, goofy sex acts, and copious amounts of lead actor Roy Abramhohn’s sweaty body hair serve to counter the pristine image of the theme park by way of the Walt Disney Corporation’s thick layer of sales pitch and nostalgia that most Americans (and Canadians) have lived with for the past 30 years.
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