Escape from Tomorrow (2013)

Disney.

With a single word, this mega company can conjure up many, many feelings.  For many, it’s animated features.  For some, it’s an iconic mouse.  Others think of family vacations when they were little or, once grown, special times they have with their little ones.  Some believe it’s everything wrong with the world.  Some, like director Randy Moore, apparently believes it is a person, place, and thing that is so fake and full of shit, he wants to be sure he makes a whole movie to drive home his disdain, and then go on a press tour to make sure people know he’s above all this Disney fakeness.

The movie was Escape from Tomorrow.  The gimmick is the guerrilla style filming inside both Disney World and Disneyland which is mostly what this movie has to stand on seven years on from its original release.  Why is filming inside Disney Parks such a gimmick to begin with?  Well, the place is absolutely crawling with intellectual property.  Disney is fierce about litigation when it comes to their shit.  There’s another reason why this movie was deemed risky, but I’ll get to that momentarily.

Let’s start with Randy Moore and who he is.  Well…  He’s practically a nobody.  He made Escape from Tomorrow and made nothing else as of yet.  But why did he make Escape from Tomorrow?  Hmmm…  The best I can tell is he’s a guy who wants to be one of those really super smart and pretentious filmmakers who might have daddy issues.  “Oh, Geoff…  Aren’t you being a little bit of a jerk toward the guy?  Who are you to say he’s a nobody with delusions of grandeur?”

Randy Moore

He tells the story himself.  He was a kid whose parents separated and divorced.  His dad moved to Florida and when Randy visited him each year, his dad took him to Disney World.  He said he had a lot of fun with his dad on those visits and those trips to the park.

Hold up, though…  Didn’t I say Moore wanted to reveal the utter horror and fakeness of Disney World?  Why, yes I did.  Didn’t I also say he might have daddy issues?  Oh.  Oh my yes I did.  You see, apparently Moore and his father had a falling out.  The result of that was him suddenly realizing that all those fun times he had with him were bullshit.  I guess?

Actually, what it came down to was that he was the valedictorian at Full Sail University and moved to Hollywood to get into the movies.  He married his Russian nurse girlfriend, and they started a family of their own.  When he started taking his kids to Disneyland, I guess all that PTSD of having a shitty relationship with his dad after all those awesome trips to Disney World came back to haunt him.  His wife even said that the behavior of people at the park was worse than a psyche ward.

So fuck you Randy Moore’s kids!  No more Disney for you!  Okay…  I dunno about that.  It just seems like he decided this was the worstest place to have ever worsted.

Look, I get why people have issues with Disney.  For some, they represent some of the worst aspects of runaway corporatization of the art of film.  They have a very rigid guideline for how their properties are represented and what is “on brand” versus versions and visions of things that don’t fit that and, therefore, not something they are cool with.  I mostly agree that Disney doesn’t always waiver too far out of a narrow line of “safe” in their storytelling.

Others have a very averse reaction to anything Disney.  The moment they catch wind of Disney purchasing a company like Lucasfilm or Marvel Comics, and people immediately think the absolute worse.  I’m not going to get too far into the complaints people have with the Star Wars property here, but I understand some of the story problems that arose with the last trilogy thanks to not really taking too many chances in how they told the stories.   While I’m not a huge fan of the animated features Disney has built their empire on, I don’t disparage anyone’s love or liking of those old movies, or, hell, even the newer movies.  I don’t like the idea of just remaking all those classics as live action movies to cash in on the audience’s nostalgia of the properties, but I digress.

Most of the people who have a direct and immediate negative reaction to Disney’s existence are, at least in my experience, people who range from having unresolved emotional issues to being utter assholes.  Some just immediately hate on Disney because they can’t think of the company beyond being “just for kids” and they are adults and fear they won’t do right by their own wants and desires for some property (this would likely be the Marvel stuff more often than not).  Others are people who believe Disney is the great and evil agent of the Left who will force diversity down your throat by having a pair of lesbian Resistance fighters waaaaay back in the background of a split second shot in Star Wars that shows these lesbos kissing.  Diversity is fine, they’ll say, but forced diversity is a sin and need not be crammed down anyone’s throats.  So in other words, “I ain’t got no issues with you doing whatever you want as long as you don’t make me have to accept it, libtards!”

As (at times) silly, but mostly narrow-minded the first two groups are, there’s a group that I kind of find to be more insufferable.  That’s the high-brow, uppity, artsy fartsy, pseudo-intellectual types who think that anything meant for mass consumption will only make the world dumber.

I kind of feel like ol’ Randy Moore falls into that third group.  Okay, maybe he has a little bit of the first mindset, because remember, daddy issues.  I kind of feel like if he spelled his name with an i, he’d have become a stripper, but since it is a y, he just decided to make movies instead.  There are various interviews out there where he tells the same stories about his perception of this mass-induced rampant capitalism over various plastic collectors items.  He tends to talk a great deal about how people there are held in some sort of religious trance over the perceived perfection that is Disney.

We’re really going to stick it to the dumb mouse… But oh please oh please oh please don’t sue us, oh great and merciful Disney!

Now, you might ask, what’s so wrong with that?  Obviously, there are things that Disney does, like many other corporations, that build up a brand that sometimes comes off like a political party.  Go to Star Wars Celebration or D23 and you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who is there not already completely bought in and pouring that Kool Aid down their throats. I say all this because I do kind of feel like there is something here to dig into.

A skilled artist can make a whole lotta hay out of some of these ideas of the shiny castle in the middle of this lovely and clean place full of different cultures and so forth, but also surrounded by utter slums.  Or, like I said, how some people are utterly bought into being a complete and die hard advocate for their brand.  These are things that can be explored as ideas.

But what do we have with Randy Moore’s vision?  Is it clever, even in its low brow and immature humor?  Is it best in its guerrilla style filming and maybe little more?  Does it successfully thumb its nose at Disney’s litigious protection of its properties?  Is it as heavy handed in its delivery as some have complained since its release?

Well, the motherfuckin’ doctor is in, bitches.  So, drop your drawers and think happy thoughts while I get this enema goin’!

The movie opens with our lead character, Jim, on the phone and getting fired for reasons unexplained.  Then his shithead kid, Elliot, locks him out while he’s on the balcony.  Now, I’m not just taking a swipe at this little turd, he’s kind of a jerk as seen later when they are on the way to the park for their final day of their vacation and Elliot refuses to apologize to Jim for locking him out.  Jim seems to have a little bit better relationship with his daughter, Sara, and his wife, Emily, doesn’t quite appreciate how he’s a bit too nice to the kids and it often makes it seem like she’s more of the bad guy than he.

As they load onto the shuttle to go to the park, they first notice quite a few people coughing and hacking.  Granted, I don’t blame Jim and Emily for being a bit weirded out by this.  No one wants to get onto an enclosed train car with old people coughing their lungs out.  This is fact.  Remember COVID-19?  Yeah.

But things get a little weirder…  And maybe not in the way that you really want.

Closer to the park, two girls jump onto the train.  These two French girls are obviously young.  At least they are purposely meant to make you immediately recognize that they are teenagers.  They are dressed like teens, they are acting like teens with both of them singing songs and using the post in the train as a way to kind of sway and play around.  You know, like kids would.  But that’s just it.  They are absolutely kids.  One girl could possibly be mistaken for 18, but the other is absolutely underage – because of her braces.

Jim definitely notices them.  They kind of give Elliot a flirty wave and smile at Jim.  Emily notices Jim smiling back but just sort rolls her eyes at it.  It’s obvious the girls and the family is headed in generally the same directions, but we’ll come back around to them later.

On a ride, Sara comments how the evil witch from Snow White scares her.  She asks Jim if she’s just make believe and he confirms that witches are not real.  I’m sure that won’t come back up at all.   On the next ride, Jim wants to, I dunno, get a quickie in while he and Emily are in the back seat with the kids up front, but she’s not into it.  I can’t tell if it is the French girls making him horny or this Winnie the Pooh ride.  I mean…  Tigger is a sex machine, but what do I know?

Jim is starting to have some weird shit happen.  He starts to get flop sweats, almost seems like he’s about to pass out and he gets a tap on his shoulder.  When he turns around he sees Emily in a fish eye lens vision tell him that she hates him.  Elliot’s eyes turn black and Emily says he’s not his son.  More rides are filmed while Jim and Elliot split from Emily and Sara.  The girls have tons of fun on rides while Jim and Elliot are stuck in the Buzz Lightyear line much to his dismay.  When they finally get to the front of the Buzz Lightyear line, the ride closes.  Elliot is super bummed.

We also get lots of footage of the two French girls who are basically on the same rides as Emily and Sara.  As Jim and Elliot walk away from the ride, they see the French girls and Jim follows to watch them eat bananas like a fuckin’ creep.  Look, I get it…  Young, teenage girls are often thought of as being these cute, flirty things.  And, yes, guys like cute and flirty things.  Especially when they are young.  I guess you can say they often remind us of our vitality and our more unburdened days of our own youth, but this kinda feels icky.

Here’s the thing.  This movie was often compared to something that Roman Polanski (heh, go figure with the pervy shit) or David Lynch would do in terms of the dreamlike way this movie plays out and the near stream of consciousness of the narrative.  However, we’re 17 minutes into this thing and this guy is perving on a couple 14 year old girls.  Why is he doing this?  Is he a pedophile?  Is he just into younger women and is willing to look but not touch at girls who are too young?  Is he having issues with his marriage?

We’re not really seeing anything other than his final day of his family vacation started like shit with getting fired and now he’s with his family in the Florida sun and stuck in long lines at Disney World.  I’m not an idiot.  I know there are lots of ways to give subtle subtext and context to your characters or general story.  However, it’s kind of hard to do when you aren’t really able to do any staged scenes of dialog if this is all meant to be guerrilla style filming.

The day continues and Elliot asks why they are following the French girls.  This comes down to a conversation in which Elliot asks if the girls are pretty.  Jim asks what he thinks, and Elliot says he thinks the girls are pretty and asks what Jim thinks of his mom.  Elliot says he thinks mom is pretty, to which Jim agrees but in a bookish, Tina Fey, Emily Dickinson sort of way, not the classical French way I suppose.

Okay, so I guess there is some context now.  Jim is bored with his marriage to a woman who, by the way, is pretty.  I guess that just means Jim is a turd.

Jim convinces Elliot to go on Space Mountain because the girls are going on that too and he’s doing a piss poor job of not looking like a total creep following the two underage girls.  This is a staged, scripted scene.  You know this because it is obviously done with rear projection.  In some ways, I feel this is kind of betraying the whole gimmick of the movie to begin with.  If they were going to stage something, I feel like they could have found some way to film it without falling back on the bad rear projection.  It is funny that Jim had to deal with Elliot puking because he wanted to look at girls.

Emily berates Jim for taking Elliot onto Space Mountain.  She is also pissed about Sara not eating when she took her to get food.  Sara doesn’t want to go back to the hotel with her mom and brother which only pisses Emily off more.  So I guess we have more context that the relationship isn’t that great.  Jim is bored and Emily is frustrated.  Got it.  Thin, but I got it.

Sara gets bumped into by a boy and scrapes her knee.  They go to the nurse to get a band-aid.  The nurse is, of course, hot, and Jim likes looking down her dress.  But that’s not the focal point of this scene.  The girl asks if either Sara or Jim have had any flu-like symptoms.  She asks in a real scared way.  She mentions that there’s a big concern out there for “cat flu” and that people may not even know they are carrying the disease.  When Jim and Sara leave, the nurse breaks down crying.

Let me break from “character” for a moment.  I want to reveal a little bit of how the sausage is made here at B-Movie Enema.  I wrote this article months ago.  I had a bug up my butt to watch this movie after remembering it was made.  I often work well in advance for the fear of writer’s block or having other things come up.  I am now proofreading this article on March 12, 2020.  That’s the day the United States essentially came to a halt in order to stop the spread of the COVID-19 cornoavirus.  This is kind of wild that I’m being suddenly reminded of the “cat flu” subplot in this movie.  Anyway, I digress.

Jim eats a giant turkey leg and a sultry “other woman” sitting next to him on the park bench.  She has a son there and comments to Jim that the giant turkey leg isn’t turkey or chicken, it’s emu.  That’s an old urban legend that has long since been debunked, but whatever.  She’s wearing this necklace that has a giant jewel or something on it and she hypnotizes him with it.  Next thing he knows she’s got him tied up in bed and she’s riding him.

After she’s done with him, she tells him that the Princesses at Disney World are high-priced courtesans for rich Asian businessmen.  Okay, and a good night to you too, Miss Lady Person.

Jim and Sara go back to the hotel room and they don’t see Emily or Elliot.  They are in the pool at the hotel.  So Jim and Sara go out to join them.  Now…  does he have nothing to say or think about being, ostensibly raped by the weird emu leg lady?  Whatever, Emily gets shitty at Jim for getting her the wrong crystal bell thing at a gift shop and not putting sunscreen on Sara.  While Emily deals with that, Jim sees the French girls and of course is all about their bikini bods.

Okay, time out.  I kinda see what ol’ Randy Moore is going for in this movie.  Family vacations are fucking nightmares.  Shit.  All vacations are nightmares.  And yes, some fire is usually known to go out from marriages over time.  There’s something to be said about places where people from all over the world congregate and mix their bacteria and grossness with others.  There is also something to be said about the glamorization of these types of theme parks completely designed in every detail to give the illusion of happiness and such, but this movie isn’t really doing it for me.

In fact, it’s kind of an unpleasant experience.

I’m not defending Disney World or Disneyland or nuthin’.  Frankly, I hate leaving the friendly confines of my apartment for more than 20 minutes at any one time.  But you know what else I don’t like?  Watching family vacation slideshows of someone else’s vacation.  That’s some bullshit.

I don’t blame the actors.  They are doing well with what they need to say and do.  But there really isn’t more than 40-45 minutes of content here stretched out into 90 minutes.  Where it doesn’t quite work is where it tries to make a point about commercialism of genuine family fun and pleasant memories, or the people who go to the parks, or the extrapolation of what something (like the princesses) represent.

In that way, it becomes fairly mean-spirited.

It’s one thing to have a movie in which the park’s princesses are played by girls who just want to party, smoke pot, and get fucked by hunky guys who visit the park, but it’s another thing to specifically point out that the princesses are hookers… specifically for Asian businessmen.  That feels icky.  Again, I’m not saying you can’t do it, but it needs to be either better explained or given better opportunity for the subtext.  Just saying that’s what the girls are and then having Jim imagine it doesn’t really cut it.

Something in the movie does work, though, and it really kicks in after about the 45 minute mark.  Remember I said that Jim and Sara went and saw that nurse and she got real remorseful over “cat flu”?  Jim is having episodes of blacking out.  He’s also puking from boozing it up on their final night at the park.  Additionally, he stepped on some broken glass earlier in the day and has been trying to treat it with ointment, to mostly no avail.  Emily is waiting for him outside and sees the French girls walk by.  One most definitely turns into a monster and Emily sees it and reacts to it with horror.

It’s really effective and the black and white makes it really spooky.  I will say the black and white works well for the movie as a whole.  It helps play to the dreamlike state of this whole thing.

Things really hit the fan when Emily confronts Jim about him telling their son that she looks like Emily Dickinson.  She then reveals that she knows he’s been following the French girls and that they are “too young, even for him.”  So maybe he is just a total pervert?  Anyway, he tells her about losing his job and she then just wants to be done with the vacation.  When Sara wants something from a gift stand, Emily eventually loses her cool and slaps Sara.

Emily and Elliot go back to the hotel while Jim and Sara go on Spaceship Earth where he sees a naked chick on the screen telling him that soon he’ll be hers.

Outside, Jim sees the French girls.  One of them, the one with the braces, asks him to join her and her friend.  He says if he goes with them, he’s afraid something bad will happen.  She says if he doesn’t something bad will happen.  When he refuses, she spits on him.  I’m not sure if that is real or not, but then something out of a crappy rip off of Logan’s Run happens.  Two people come out and shock Jim in the testicles.

He wakes up and finds himself being a test subject of the Siemens Corporation.  Under Epcot Center, his guy is doing stuff…?  Apparently, he was supposed to go somewhere that his former boss told him to go when he got fired that morning.  He didn’t and the scientist man is mad.  So I don’t know what’s happening here?  He’s some sort of test subject.  It has something to do with him coming here as a kid…?  The picture of the naked girl from the ride earlier is on the wall and when Jim uses the stuff he’s been using for his foot, it sprays everywhere like a massive money shot.  It’s bizarre and comes out of nowhere.  The science man is a robot too…  There’s that.

There’s still 23 goddamn minutes left in this movie so I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I kinda want to get off this ride.

Jim frantically searches for Sara and finds her with that lady who raped him earlier in the day.  The lady is dressed as one of the evil witches and Sara is playing Sleeping Beauty.  Apparently this woman was once one of the Princesses.  One day, she was hugging a girl and she killed the kid by hugging her too hard.  I guess she’s supposed to be teaching the lesson that not everyone can be happy all the time or something?  I mean, that kinda lines up and can be a lesson learned after a trip to a place like Disney World, but… again… why?  Where does this fit and why not give us some sort of subtext and context leading up to that revelation?

I mean I suppose the whole movie is subtext for that.  Like, this whole goddamn thing is a fucking nightmare so, yeah, I guess you are supposed to find happiness wherever you can and maybe it isn’t where you expect to find it?  Maybe it’s not in these visits to a Magic Kingdom, but in the subtle moments of day to day life?

Oh whatever, Jim shits his brains out in the hotel room.  He then coughs up hairballs because he has cat flu.  Now, that’s all bizarre and stuff, but the strangest thing in the scene?  They blur out his butt crack when he’s thrown himself over from pooping, and then again when he gets up to flush and puke.  Why?  We saw tits at Spaceship Earth.  Why can’t we see Jim’s butt crack?

Elliot opens the bathroom door and Jim tells him he needs help because he’s sick, but Elliot just closes the door.  Emily finds Jim in the morning with a grin and cat eyes like the Cheshire Cat.  I think he also has a boner, but maybe I’m just expecting him to have one due to the simple fact he has been a walking boner the whole movie.  Some men from Disney come to get the body.  They go up to Elliot and implant an image of the Buzz Lightyear ride into his head.

As these mysterious Disney dudes deal with Jim’s carcass, the park goes on business as usual.  People, who in no way signed off on having their likenesses appear in a movie, rush along to get inside and get on rides and consume and stuff – because they are sheeple.  I guess.  A new guest arrives with the woman who was naked on Spaceship Earth and it’s Jim.  They are checking in for a fun week of Walt Disney Resort magic.  The French girls come flying in as a pair of Tinkerbells and wink at us semi-seductively.

Kinda ewwww?

In the end, what was Disney’s response to all this?  In 2013, when this was released and playing the festival circuit, it was mostly sold on that gimmick that it was shot inside Disney parks and they will never allow this to be released in any official capacity.  If you don’t see it at one of these festivals, then surely you will never see this movie ever!  It’s a clever marketing campaign if you ask me.  It’s the movie that Disney doesn’t want you to see!  That has an old school exploitation feel to it, doesn’t it?

Well, Disney chose to ignore it instead of suing.  There’s probably two reasons for this.  First, by trying to control its release, you open the floodgates for bootlegs, and, ultimately, you’re likely never going be able to stop it from getting to the public.  You know, like The Star Wars Holiday Special (RELEASE THE STEVE BINDER CUT, YOU COWARDS!).  The other reason is a smart one…  It’s probably not going to look too good on you to try to squash this small film that was literally shot in black and white on a Cannon EOS camera.  The best thing you can do is stop any future attempts to follow in Moore’s footsteps.

So, I guess you can say that, just like the movie itself, it turned out to be a whole lotta smoke up your butt.  Up your now completely enema-ed butthole.

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