For his debut feature film, writer/director Randy Moore has come up with one of the more clever premises in recent cinema. Going commando in Disney World with a cast of actors, his Escape from Tomorrow was shot under the nose of Uncle Walt and survives for public consumption because it falls under “parody.” The on-site daring certainly elevates his critique of the princess fantasies the company doles out on a daily basis, but as the film rolls on the mystique gradually loses its luster, shifting to off-site locations and generally falling apart.
The film’s opening 45 minutes, however, live up to the project’s potential. A series of “How did they do that?” moments, there’s a certain movie geek wonder in deciphering just what it took to pull off these scenes. Knowing that Moore and his cameraman/men had to be covert in their actions, the shots on rides and throughout the park from multiple angles are consistently stunning while smooth overhead “tracking” shots at a pool, which would be ambitious for almost any film, are borderline miraculous. Other than the seamless F/X work of Elysium, perhaps no film this year demands a behind-the-scenes featurette or, more likely, considering the production confines, an insightful director’s commentary.
The whole concept is so impressive that, for a while, it trumps nearly any sense of story. Beginning the day by losing his job, Jim (Roy Abramsohn) attempts to shake off the stress through another day at Disney World with his wife Emily (Elena Schuber) and children Sara (Katelynn Rodriguez) and Elliot (Jack Dalton). Showing his lecherous side by ogling a pair of pixie-like teenage French girls (Danielle Safady and Annet Mahendru) who may or may not be following him, the day takes a turn for the weirder when the happy figurines on “It’s A Small World” suddenly morph into demonic entities. Primed for major horror however it may arrive, Escape from Tomorrow just as quickly tosses its allure aside, and as the focus wafts to its barely interesting characters, the sloppiness takes over.
Shot in crisp black and white, the photography is further compromised by multiple green screen shots that blatantly don’t match the overall look. With Jim’s creepy attraction to the underage French girls taking center stage, the Disney Princess mindset receives a messy send-up that never really stood a chance under Moore’s leadership. The second half also has the disadvantage of barely featuring shots in the actual park, a move that makes the film’s unique opening stretch feel more and more like a gimmick. The ultimate recession doesn’t quite destroy the inventiveness of those introductory shots, which still warrant closer examination as to just how they were accomplished, but it doesn’t exactly do this tale of two halves any favors either.
Not rated, but there’s a good deal of language, a little female nudity, and, for reasons unknown, a blurred male buttocks.
Escape from Tomorrow is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.
Wish I had read this review before I saw this movie Sunday. I understand that the movie itself must have been a feat to shoot but, the script could have been written anywhere! No one was under any pressure to cobble together an actual storyline and it could have been planned well in advance of storming the Magic Kingdom. It apparently wasn’t.
It’s a bit of a dud, isn’t it? Were you at least a little impressed with the first half on a technical level?
On an intellectual level, if I sat and thought about the idea of guerrilla film making, and how everything in the Park was shot without the Park’s permission or cooperation and it never looked like “The Blair Witch Project,” then that’s impressive. I’m just a person that’s drawn to plots and characters and story movement and none of that really happens in the first part, it’s just “My Disney World Vacation” (made all the more real with a totally unlikable family!)
I think we’re in almost complete agreement here. For the most part, the technical achievements blinded me early on to the lack of narrative, but even then there were a lot of dumb things (e.g. the French girls) that didn’t exactly intrigue me.