Sundance '13 Review: ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW - Unauthorized Film Shot At Disney Theme Parks
Director/Screenwriter: Randy Moore
Cast: Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez, Jack Dalton, Annet Mahendru, Danielle Safady, Alison Lees-Taylor
Synopsis: Jim White is an average American family man, mostly content to exist within his humdrum reality. At the tail end of a theme park vacation with his loving wife and two beautiful children, he is awakened by an unsettling phone call from his boss, who tells him that he has lost his job. Unwilling to disturb their sabbatical, Jim holds off on breaking the news to his family so they can enjoy their last day at the idyllic and beloved tourist destination. In desperate need of a distraction, he finds one amidst the long lines at the park—two attractive and fun-loving teenage girls. In his fractured state, Jim falls obsessively in love, making any excuse he can to follow them everywhere. Along the way, his paranoid psyche spirals even further downward, and the fine line between fantasy and reality becomes blurred.
Story and Direction
What grabbed our attention and got us to watch this film, and what will likely prevent you from being able to, was the fact that this was shot on location at Walt Disney Theme Parks - without permission or consent from Disney! While watching some of the more elaborate scenes you're often left wondering, "How many takes did they need to get that?" The answer: around 3-4, sometimes… 1. The film was shot entirely in black and white to hide some of the inconsistencies in lighting. There were also a handful of scenes that had to be shot with green screen, most aren't too distracting. Either way, it's truly awe-inspiring how first time feature director Randy Moore was able to properly plan, rehearse, and film this cute and twisted comedy.
I absolutely loved the satirical humor in the first 2/3 of the movie. There were so many well-written scenes that really feel authentic to what a "not-so-magical" day at the "Happiest Place on Earth" is like. The film's final act is what will polarize audiences. You'll either love or hate the bizarre turn this takes. Even though this "line between fantasy and reality" is set up throughout the movie, it turns into something I personally found hard to enjoy. Not only could I not make heads or tails of the ending, it just stopped being funny and resorted to gross-out humor.
Escape From Tomorrow may offer a world of laughter and fun, but it would have benefitted from staying grounded in a smaller world.
Yet another testament to how amazing the production was, is how they were able to get great performances from their young leads. We've all heard how difficult it is to get kids to act. And we have probably all experienced or at least witnessed how hard it is get children to focus or behave at a theme park. The performances they managed to get out of Katelynn Rodriguez and Jack Dalton are really amazing considering the hectic guerrilla techniques which were used to capture their performances.
In the role of Jim is Roy Abramsohn. The character is a bit unsympathetic at times, but he brings a really fun energy to the role that could have easily been fumbled or overacted. Abramsohn is like a less-intense, more subtle Rob Riggle. He has that everyman look that you can really accept, and even when he's not being the greatest dad or his kids are being straight up creepy, you still get a solid sense of how much he cares for his children.
I don't think there has really been anything like this before. It's study of a familiar setting not really tackled before, and the fact that it is presented in black & white, could garner some comparisons to Kevin Smith's Clerks. Although this has a lot better acting and goes way weirder places… seriously.
Chances You'll See It in Theaters
Disney will no doubt put the kibosh on this thing. Exactly how much legal action will be taken is yet to be seen, but Disney representatives were sent out to screen the film. Do not fear, this could have a lot of life within the festival circuit. Ultimately, the only way to get this out to the masses without getting locked up in the Disney Vault would be to release this online for free.