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‘Escape From Tomorrow’: Lame movie, amazing Disney punk

‘ESCAPE FROM
TOMORROW’ ★★

Jim Roy Abramsohn

Emily Elena Schuber

Sara Katelynn Rodriguez

Elliot Jack Dalton

Mankurt Media presents a film written and directed by Randy Moore. Running time: 103 minutes. No MPAA rating. Available on demand and opening Friday at the Music Box Theatre.

Updated: November 26, 2013 6:10AM



The most astonishing thing about “Escape From Tomorrow” is you can actually see “Escape From Tomorrow” in a theater or on Video on Demand.

A full-length, fictional, creepy-weird movie shot guerilla-style at Disney theme parks? Good luck with that. And even if you managed to capture enough footage on the sly, you could wish upon a star and there’s still no way the Disney lawyers would let something like that see the light of day (or the dark of a theater), right?

Amazingly, Disney has done absolutely nothing to block the release of writer-director Randy Moore’s black-and-white fever dream of a movie. Rather than get into a protracted legal battle, Disney hasn’t said a word about “Escape From Tomorrow.”

Smart move. Once you get past the amazement this thing was made at all, the movie itself is an intermittently clever but mostly tedious, convoluted David Lynch knockoff that wanders all over the place. The amateurish acting doesn’t help.

So here’s how they did it. Moore and his crew secretly filmed scenes at Walt Disney World and in a Disney hotel. The black-and-white footage is pretty impressive, capturing the increasingly surreal misadventures of a typical American family. We catch only occasional glimpses of actual Disney characters, but of course we instantly recognize Epcot, the Magic Kingdom and various rides and attractions.

Kudos to Moore and his team for pulling this off. The fact they made an entire movie right under Mickey’s nose is nothing short of astonishing.

Too bad the movie feels like a missed opportunity.

Roy Abrahmsohn is Jim, who learns he’s been fired while his family is on vacation at Disney World. Jim keeps this news from his constantly harping wife Emily (Elena Shuber) and his children Sara (Katelynn Rodriguez) and Elliot (Jack Dalton) — but as they set out for one last day’s worth of adventures, he’s plunged into a world in which harmless children’s rides turn into horror-movie hallucinations, and there are dark secrets lurking behind every seemingly cheerful façade.

A nurse treating Sara after a minor accident references the “cat flu” going around and warns, “You could be a host and not even know it!” A woman on a park bench tells Jim the turkey leg he’s eating is actually emu meat. And oh by the way, that woman just might be a witch — or at least believes she’s a witch.

While Emily and Sara go off in one direction, Jim drags Elliot all over the park and pursues two French teenage girls who keep casting provocative gazes his way as they hold hands, sing songs, splash in the pool. When Eliot asks his father if Mommy is pretty like those girls are pretty, Jim says sure, “but not in a classical way, more in an Emily Dickinson, bookish, Tina Fey kind of way.”

Yeah, Pop’s quite a guy.

As Jim boozes it up and Emily continues to harp at him about the teenage girls and about not looking after the kids, we start wishing the camera would start following another, more interesting family around (perhaps a family portrayed by better actors). The more bizarre “Escape From Tomorrow” gets — and it gets really, really strange — the fact it’s being filmed secretly on Disney property doesn’t seem to matter much any more. The cheesy, B-movie secrets about Epcot Center, the revelation about the sordid double lives led by the women who portray Disney princesses, the last minute-attempts to delve in “Twilight Zone” territory — none of it really works. It’s as if patches of scripts from several different movies were filmed and it was stitched together.

A movie about the making of this movie would probably be more fascinating than the movie we’re getting.

But I still can’t believe they got away this.

Email: rroeper@suntimes.com

Twitter: @richardroeper



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