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Review: Shot In Secret, Mind-Melter ‘Escape From Tomorrow’

Review: Shot In Secret, Mind-Melter 'Escape From Tomorrow'

We’re not sure why writer/director Randy Moore decided to come swinging out the gate with a first feature like “Escape from Tomorrow,” and frankly, we’re not entirely sure how he got away with even making it in the first place. Much of this dark, utterly bizarre comedy would appear to be covertly shot on the property of Orlando’s Walt Disney World, and despite Moore’s strident avoidance of the dreaded D-word, there’s little doubting that the Mouse House and all it represents is in his sights.

On the last morning of a Florida family vacation, Jim (Roy Abramsohn) receives a phone call, telling him that he’s been let go from his job. He keeps this information to himself, content with simply rushing his wife (Elena Schuber) and kids (Jack Dalton and Katelynn Rodriguez) out the door for another day of brutal humidity and endless lines. Amid the mind-numbing grind of making memories stroll two young French girls, giggling and gallivanting around the park, clearly causing Daddy to pine for a visit to Lolitaland.

However, things seem slightly off to Jim. He starts to see demonic figures on the rides. He keeps losing his children and running into the same scooter-bound cretins. The park nurse seems awfully sensitive about the possibility of visitors contracting “cat flu.” What is it with the Asian businessmen hitting on all the princesses? And just what are those turkey legs made out of anyway?

Moore’s movie may not seem to make much sense – visitors unwittingly look into the camera, green-screen work is used to duplicate the park experience, and the story is frankly bugnuts throughout – but he does set up bits at the beginning that do come to pay off in ridiculous ways, and cinematographer Lucas Lee Graham pulls off the commendable feat of shooting the film with some margin of legitimate composition in spite of the crew’s apparent guerrilla antics. Furthermore, composer Abel Korzeniowski (“A Single Man”) was somehow enlisted to contribute a score of unlikely grandeur that suits the surreal aesthetic contrasts of squeaky-clean Disney and middle-aged madness nicely.

Thrust smack in the middle of most every scene, Abramsohn handles the story’s unlikely demands with aplomb. Looking like the missing link between Ciarán Hinds and Ken Marino, he has a suitable everyman appearance and few apparent qualms about performing to an unwitting public. Whether his character is shit-faced at Epcot or leering shamelessly at the aforementioned teens in the Magic Kingdom, he conveys appropriate amounts of realistic parental panic as easily as he does oversized outbursts, maintaining just a sliver of haggard determination along the way.

As for how this nightmare unfolds, well, you’d hardly believe us if we tried to describe it. Beyond the simple absurdity of a courtesan screaming out “Find my hidden Mickey!” during sex or the slap-in-the-face timing of an intermission, the Polanski-like madness of ‘Tomorrow’ clearly stems from some of the very real frustrations that families are met with in the face of overwhelming corporate homogeneity. This potential cult classic may be a bit on the sloppy side, but it’s fairly clear to us that Moore very much gives a damn about not giving a fuck. [B+]

This is a slightly edited reprint of our review from the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

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