Whatever the technical intrigue of a film shot guerilla-style at Disney World, the would-be surreal midlife crisis that ended up onscreen doesn’t work… at all.
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
It sounded like a potentially fun idea: an indie shot guerilla-style at Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in Los Angeles purporting to show, in a fictional way, the dark side of The Happiest Place on Earth. But it doesn’t work — at all.
There’s not much story for far too long into the brief runtime of Escape from Tomorrow, merely the onset of a midlife crisis for Jim (Roy Abramsohn) who, on the last day of his family vacation at Disney World, learns that he’s been fired from his job. He then proceeds to spend the day variously creeping on two teenaged French girls (Danielle Safady and Annet Mahendru) by following them around the park; getting drunk and vomiting copiously; enduring the nagging and no-fun-allowed attitude of his wife, Emily (Elena Schuber) — wives, amirite?; and randomly ignoring or engaging in borderline abuse of his two small children, Sara (Katelynn Rodriguez) and Elliot (Jack Dalton), such as by pushing them onto rides they’re not ready for or just plain losing them in the crowds as he daydreams.
What’s meant to be surreal doesn’t quite get there, not even via the black-and-white cinematography, which isn’t particularly of note beyond its lack of color, and if there’s meant to be some cultural commentary to be found in a middle-aged man leering at skimpily dressed teenaged girls at supposedly wholesome Disney World — which we may presume is something that happens thousands of times daily — I don’t see it. Hints of more nefarious goings-on — hushed mentions of a “cat flu” infecting humans at the park; indications that the pretty girls in princess costumes might be up to more than just smiling and waving royally at park guests — are dropped but never amount to anything pointed enough to sting.
And that’s pretty unforgivable when even the film’s suggestion of a sinister plot to manipulate Disney fans throughout their entire lives cannot be capitalized upon by the story. Is a global supercorp marketing overpriced packaged fun that difficult a target?
There may be some technical intrigue in discussing the production challenges of shooting a film in a public-yet-private place where the very act of filming has to be kept secret, and writer-director Randy Moore deserves kudos for attempting it. But that’s entirely separate from what ended up onscreen, which feels like the weakest ever episode of The Twilight Zone.