Escape from Tomorrow

This dark, kinky indie became instantly famous for being shot covertly in Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Because Disney is so notorious for siccing its lawyers on anyone who mars their brand, few people expected this film to receive distribution. First-time writer/director Moore got away with a parody defense, and now Escape from Tomorrow has seen the light of day.

A few legal requirements provide some laughs - the one time a character says the word "Disney", it's half-bleeped out; a scene that takes place in the "It's a Small World" ride has the copyright-protected music replaced by a hilariously taunting generic kiddy song. It's like Moore knew these legal hoops were stupid, so he just ran with them.

Escape from Tomorrow doesn't have much of a cohesive narrative, per se. The film opens with Jim (dryly funny everyman Roy Abramsohn) receiving a call from his boss, informing him that he's been fired. This happens the morning of Jim's family's final day at Disney World, and Jim decides to keep the grim news to himself while his wife and two children join him for one last day of "fun".

What follows is a nightmarish day in Orlando, as Jim hallucinates that his family hates him, stalks some sexy teenage French girls, has an encounter with a woman who might be a witch, and travels even further into the sinister heart of the Magic Kingdom. Much of this may only be happening in Jim's head. We're never given a satisfying answer.

If Escape from Tomorrow has a message - other than "Look, we managed to shoot this creepy, surreal film right under Disney's nose!" - it's one of these likely suspects: Disney's brand of corporate entertainment is soulless and unsatisfying (which isn't wholly true; I for one can admire the craftsmanship of these theme parks, and in fact I once even helped design a ride at Epcot); white guys go through mid-life crises; the American dream has a dark underbelly. Yeah yeah yeah. But the film doesn't hit you over the head. It's so damn weird that it simply doesn't have time to proselytize.

The noirish black and white cinematography is nifty, though the dramatic change in visual styles is distracting: handheld location camerawork is blended with some obvious static green screen shots (they couldn't shoot the more dramatic scenes in Disney territory without alerting authorities) and some genuinely lovely interior sequences. The soundtrack of recycled tracks from a million sources is fun. There are lots of good laughs.

I recommend Escape from Tomorrow with reservations. All that weirdness doesn't amount to much in the end, but it sure is crazy fun while it lasts. Cult status is guaranteed.