Escape From Tomorrow

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Hype is the most dangerous thing a movie can have.  It’s often the fastest catalyst to disappointment.  It can also degrade a film, or force it into a one-dimensionality that it never escapes.

Randy Moore’s Escape From Tomorrow is just such an example.  As you may know, it’s the movie where they snuck a camera into Disneyworld and filmed their bizarre tale of personal disintegration in the “happiest place on earth“.  The early hype was good, and nobody seemed to think this film would get further than a couple of festival showings before the Almighty Mouse and/or affiliated corporation sued the film into non-existence.

Well, Disney doesn’t seem to care (more on that later), and the film officially opened last week.  So…..the verdict:

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There are some great individual elements to this film.  The cinematography (by Lucas Lee Graham) is excellent. Rendered in black-and-white, the kinetic and disorienting shots of the park, rides, and surroundings are well done.  This visual uneasiness sets a tone early in the film.  Unfortunately, this tone get diluted and overdone as the film progresses. There are also some scenes that are obviously after-effects (not location shots) that don’t blend quite as well with the other footage.  While it’s not quite Hitchcock-car-scene level, it’s still very noticeable, and jarring at times.  I realize that this isn’t a trillion-dollar blockbuster, so I’m not expecting total visual perfection…

The music is spectacular.  Abel Korzeniowski created an old-school Frans Waxman-esque score complete with swirling strings and dramatic orchestral drops.  The score works so well because it helps reinforce the fantastic and the classic that Disneyworld often represents.

Again, the hype surrounding this film made me hope for a subversive masterpiece.  It is not.  It does however, do a great job of transforming the wholesome into the grotesque.

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There are some truly creepy moments in the film.  Some are not Disney-induced.  The father character (who has lost his job and has chosen to withhold this information from his family) continually follows some VERY underage girls around.  I found this story element disturbing because it appeared to be his primary motivation throughout the first hour of the movie.  Imagine Clark Griswold without the good humor and a much darker moral compass…

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And what about Disney, why are they not killing this film? Well, it’s a low-budget indie movie that will have limited appeal and distribution.  They know that doing something will draw more attention and get the movie more press.  And to be honest, the whole thing feels like it’s 10 years too late.  We have larger, badder villains than Disney. Disneyland has been surpassed on the post-modern scale of disdain.  In the last 8 years we have seen corporations that deal in far worse things than princesses and theme-park-parent-robbery. Real evil walks among us.

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