Fantastic Fest 2013: Randy Moore's Impossible 'Escape from Tomorrow'
by Jeremy Kirk
September 23, 2013
Fact 1: Writer/director Randy Moore shot his feature film debut, Escape from Tomorrow, at both Disneyland and Disney World without permission or permits. Fact 2: The Walt Disney Company hasn't said a word about what Moore has done, and his movie, thought to only be a Sundance one-off, is going to see the light of day. And thus we have the strange, surreal story of a family man's mid-life crisis in the happiest place on Earth. Escape from Tomorrow is nowhere near a masterpiece, but the sheer ambition on making what can be described as an "impossible film" is undeniable. Walt Disney's frozen head may even be proud.
Roy Abramsohn stars as Jim, a man who, along with his wife and two children, is spending his final vacation day in Orlando, Florida. This is the day the family is shotgunning everything Disney, the Magic Kingdom and Epcot included. But Jim's day starts with an uncomfortable phone call from his boss, and it just gets progressively worse. As his family enjoys the attractions, and as Jim begins noticing - and following - a pair of young, attractive Parisian women, the kingdom of happiness around him begins to change. Or, at least, he believes the park begins to change. Demon faces on the animatronics, a strange woman who may or may not be a witch, and the dangers of the cat flu are only a smattering of the obstacles getting in Jim's way of a good time. Either that or it's the mid-life crisis playing Hell on the man's senses.
The screenplay at work in Escape from Tomorrow is choppy, as if Moore patchworked a dozen, different ideas he had for the theme park together and worked on a through story to tie them together. They don't all work. Some of the story elements in Escape from Tomorrow are half-baked and could use a better development and payoff to aid Moore's overall movie. The surreal tone and the ambiguity of whether or not everything is in this sick man's head contribute to the audience's difficult time in sorting out the details. Moore doesn't give us all the answers, and that can be admired. However, the appreciation he receives for that is nowhere near what he deserves for even getting this film made.
The guerilla style with which Moore decided to shoot Escape from Tomorrow is an impressive, ballsy even, choice. At every turn of the park, every time we see a Disney character or a familiar ride, we are reminded just out audacious Moore's film really is. Escape from Tomorrow should not exist, and though Moore includes some obvious green screen and some clearly alternate location sets for the interiors, it's all still so damn impressive.
It's not just the fact that it's shot at the Disney locations that gets the film to the level of subversion that it hits. Moore gives the theme park a dark, sinister edge, to the point that when the demon faces show up, you're not entirely sure the park isn't haunted. When we hear about Disney princesses selling themselves to rich, Asian businessmen or what kind of meat the giant turkey legs are really made out of, we wonder how much is half-truth and how much is total, Randy Moore fiction. Even the opening credits, which are intercut with POV shots of the Big Thunder Mountain ride, are shocking, probably the most shocking image Moore puts into his film.
And for that fact alone, that Fact 1 that led to this impossible movie, Escape from Tomorrow has to be, HAS TO BE, admired. It's a film that should not be, and the rule-breaker in charge of getting it made should be commended. His story about forced happiness and the dire direction in which our future society is headed is littered with interesting ideas, but a more honed narrative and better focus would make a world of difference. Escape from Tomorrow is darkly funny and awkwardly tragic, but at the end of the day, you're still in Disney World for the entirety of the film. At least you can always focus on the maverick filmmaking.
Jeremy's Fantastic Fest Rating: 7 out of 10
Jeremy's Rating for the fact Escape from Tomorrow even exists: 10 out of 10
Follow Jeremy on Twitter - @JeremyKKirk
Jeremy's Rating for Escape from Tomorrow: 7 out of 10