Sundance '13: 'Escape From Tomorrow' is Total Disney World Insanity
by Alex Billington
January 25, 2013
This film should not exist. Yet, somehow, it does. The filmmakers wanted to take on this bold task, did what they needed to do at Disney World, made the film, and here it is. And it's totally insane. One of the most buzzed about films of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival is a small, extremely low budget feature film that was shot at and takes place entirely inside of Disney World. But it's no Disney movie (in fact, word is the powerful Disney legal team may go after this). It's a totally trippy, wacky, weird movie that is much better as an experience and concept than it is a film. However, I'm still extremely impressed that this was even made.
Escape From Tomorrow, directed by Randy Moore, is a B&W feature film about a family on vacation at Disney World. The day starts when the father, played by Roy Abramsohn, receives a call from his work firing him for no reason. Suddenly, the happiest place on Earth isn't the happiest place anymore, especially with his overbearing wife and two young children in tow. But alas, their day at Disney World begins and we watch as Jim goes through a trippy series of hallucinations on rides, follows young French girls around the park, and eventually loses his mind completely when he loses his daughter. It goes to some weird places, which is part of the problem with the film. The experience of the concept is better than the film in the end.
More than anything, I'm impressed that this was even made, that some crazy filmmakers dreamed up this idea of making a film at Disney World and actually made it, and it made it into Sundance. I'm sure many people have said "we should shoot an entire movie inside Disneyland" (since they, of course, allow cameras there) but no one has actually done that yet - until now. Finally, these filmmakers did, and the results aren't perfect but the experience is something to behold. This film is wacky and insane in every way, and its been getting comparisons to The Shining for good reason. Both in terms of the paranoia plot as well as its potential cult status (though it's not as good as The Shining), which I'm sure it will get after this festival.
There's also no question that this film is going to become a Sundance legend. Not necessarily because it's that good (it really isn't that great to be totally honest), but because the buzz is that this may never get released outside of the festival. The five or six screenings that took place here in Park City, UT over the last week are, supposedly, the only times it may ever be shown. If that's the case, the hype behind that alone is more than enough to earn it legendary status, but also because it's so damn cool they actually made this movie to begin with. The plot takes some very odd turns in the second half, but it's still amusing and is something almost everyone will want to see just to see it, even if they don't really enjoy it as a film.
Part of the problem with the film is that it devolves into sheer paranoia in odd ways. There are a few bad green screen shots, the story itself goes on way too long, especially once they visit Epcot at the end (does anyone even like that park?). While the score by Abel Korzeniowski (of A Single Man, W.E.) is another stand out element of it, the rest of the film feels like a college B-movie, which is pretty much what this is. It just happens to be a college student B-movie shot at Disney World, taking place at Disney, addressing the idea that even the happiest place on Earth can sometimes be miserable (for adults). It even addresses the chauvinistic nature of man in a totally kooky, but somewhat compelling and completely realistic way.
Whether or not the film, especially the second half, is coherent enough to be considered "good" is irrelevant to me when considering what this may inspire in future filmmakers. If they can shoot a movie at Disney World, without Disney even knowing, get it into Sundance and earn this kind of buzz, what will that inspire in other filmmakers? What will we see next? I love the reality of Escape From Tomorrow, that they're not worried about rights or brand control, or anything besides simply telling a story where it needs to be told. Will someone shoot a film entirely on a plane or in Apple's offices next? Who knows. At least this film exists and may inspire others, even if it never sees the light of day ever again. Thanks for the memories, Disney.
Alex's Sundance Rating: 7 out of 10