Word about this movie quickly spread after it debuted at Sundance last year: people couldn’t get enough of the gimmick of the movie, which was filmed mostly at DisneyWorld without Disney’s knowledge or approval. The problem is that the movie just uses the DisneyWorld setting as a gimmick.
Escape from Tomorrow is about a middle aged man who visits a theme park with his wife and kids and proceeds to lose his mind in fits and starts. Most of the stuff that’s bothering him – the lack of physical affection from his wife, how needy his kids are – is stuff that could be expressed anywhere. A lot of the specific problems he has – being annoyed at lines, losing his kid in a crowd – could have happened in any theme park and aren’t DisneyWorld specific. It’s only towards the end of the movie when he meets a Princess gone wrong that it feels like something that had to have taken place in the Magic Kingdom.
The film would feel more subversive if it did a better job of doling out the bursts of madness because then we would get a better sense of contrast between the man and his environment. Instead the film remains slack and mundane for long stretches, then something will pop off semi-randomly. It isn’t a slow burn into lunacy because the madness doesn’t escalate every time it happens, and it isn’t a tense pot boiler where you are waiting for the next explosion because his hallucinations are making him weird, not violent. Instead of juxtaposing this hyper-controlled environment with a man who is slowly losing control, it’s mostly a sexually frustrated guy following teenaged girls around lustfully in a place that sells turkey legs.
If there had been more madness, or more compelling madness, then this film would go down in history as a truly audacious undertaking. As it is, it’s a curio that you want to like but probably can’t.
Winner: the Cat