ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Roy Abramsohn as JIM
Elena Schuber as EMILY
Katelynn Rodriguez as SARA
Jack Dalton as ELLIOT
Danielle Safady as SOPHIE
Annet Mahendru as ISABELLE
Lee Armstrong as MAN ON SCOOTER
Directed by: Randy Moore
BY KEVIN CARR
Sometimes the story behind how a movie is made supercedes the story in the movie and becomes a greater discussion piece. We saw this happen with films like “The Blair Witch Project” and even more notoriously with something like “The Human Centipede.” These films became bigger than the story they told, to the point of becoming part of a national conversation.
“Escape from Tomorrow” has done this with its innovative guerrilla techniques, shooting most of the film without permission in the Disney theme parks. In a way, this story-behind-the-story has been great for the film, making it a movie that’s worth seeking out just to see how it was pulled off. On the other hand, it’s an albatross around the film’s neck, with the actual film struggling at times to live up to its own hype.
The story follows a family on a trip to Disney World. The father (Roy Abramsohn) is in the middle of a breakdown, part mid-life crisis and part physical illness. Throughout the day, he and his wife (Elena Schuber) juggle their kids separately, leaving him to get into plenty of trouble. He starts stalking two teenage girls in the park and later ends up in an afternoon tryst. Later, he finds himself at the heart of the darker side of the theme park, after which things will never be the same.
I’ll admit, there is a certain part to “Escape from Tomorrow” that is lost on me for no other reason than I’ve never been to one of the Disney parks. I’ve lived in Ohio all of my life, and family never had the money for the expensive pilgrimage to Orlando for a family vacation. (It also didn’t hurt that we were in driving distance from Kings Island and Cedar Point, which boast some of the best thrill rides in the country.)
I’ve never had the “Happiest Place on Earth” message shoved down my throat, and while I have plenty of experience going to amusement parks as both a child and an adult, I realize that there’s something extra special in the Disney delivery.
Still, I got “Escape from Tomorrow.” As a dad who has spent plenty of exhausting days running around fun destinations with my kids, I understand the bizarre fever dream it can inspire. Sure, I’ve never stalked young Parisian girls in the pool and on rides, and I was never swept away to a hotel room with a horny housewife leaving my kids in the adjoining room to watch TV, but I can see where a grown up can see the darker side behind the happy veneer of an amusement park.
The story behind how “Escape from Tomorrow” was made is quite fascinating. Using consumer-grade equipment, writer/director Randy Moore was able to hide the crew in plain site, capturing footage of the family going through the most exposed area of the Disney parks. The darker, more sexual and dangerous moments were filmed on sets or in hotel locations, with only a few necessary green screen moments.
Unfortunately, the story isn’t as strong as it could be, coming from a more experimental script than a straightforward narrative. This allowed “Escape from Tomorrow” a greater awareness in the marketplace but offering less appeal to the mainstream audience.
Still, it’s a neat movie to check out. Anyone with a filmmaking background should watch the movie to see what real guerrilla filmmaking can accomplish. Both subversive and inspiring, “Escape from Tomorrow” is not a perfect film but it’s a neat story.
The DVD comes with two commentaries: one with writer/director Randy Moore and cinematographer Lucas Lee Graham, and the other with actors Roy Abramsohn and Elena Schuber in character. There’s also a fascinating “Making of Escape from Tomorrow” featurette as well as the theatrical poster gallery and original trailer.