Escape from Tomorrow

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On the last day of a family vacation at Walt Disney World Resort, Jim White (Roy Abramsohn) gets a call from his boss, informing him that he has been laid off. He keeps the news to himself in order not to spoil the family’s remaining time at the resort. As he and his family take the monorail to the park, he sees two teenage French girls and his interest in them increases as their paths cross repeatedly, either by accident or design, throughout the morning. Jim begins having disturbing visions during the rides, such as the audio-animatronic characters’ faces changing from friendly smiles to sinister scowls and his wife and children looking scary. After a fight with his wife Emily, springing from his decision to take his son Elliot on Space Mountain (which gives Elliot motion sickness) in order to keep up his pursuit of the French teens, he takes his daughter Sara to the rides of the Magic Kingdom and continues tracking the girls while his wife and son return to their hotel room.

Later, the son of a wheelchair-bound man, whom Jim had spotted earlier from afar, shoves Sara, who scrapes her knee and requires a visit to the park nurse. The nurse, while treating his daughter, seems extremely unsettled by the “cat flu” apparently spreading through the parks’ patrons, noting “You may be a carrier and not even know it.” Jim and Sara meet a mysterious woman and Jim becomes entranced by a glimmering amulet necklace the woman is wearing. He briefly blacks out, and the film flashes forward to Jim coming back to consciousness mid-coitus with the woman. Afterward, she claims that the parks’ wholesome, costumed princesses are actually part of a secret prostitution ring that services “rich Asian businessmen”. Growing increasingly unnerved, he quickly makes an awkward exit with Sara and eventually joins his wife and son at the pool. There he again encounters the French teens, and his mounting obsession makes him bolder, as he attempts to talk with one of them while his wife is busy applying sunscreen to his daughter.

His family returns to Epcot, where the seething tension between Jim and Emily comes to a head after Jim drinks heavily and eventually vomits while on the Gran Fiesta Tour. Spotting the French teens, Emily confronts Jim about his obvious interest in the girls and, in her anger, lashes out at their daughter. Embarrassed, she decides to return to the hotel with their son and leaves Jim with Sara. They ride the Soarin’ attraction, where Jim finds that a beautiful naked woman is superimposed over the ride’s video footage of landscapes. When he emerges from the ride, he spots the French girls once again. One of them approaches him and, after an encounter, the substance of which is unclear because of Jim’s increasing hallucinations, spits in his face. He realizes that he has lost track of Sara during the encounter and is knocked unconscious by park guards.

The word “INTERMISSION” flashes onscreen for 5 seconds; then the film resumes as Jim awakens in a secret detention facility under Epcot’s Spaceship Earth, where an interrogator discusses Jim’s flights of fantasy and imagination, telling him that he has been part of an experiment since he first went to the parks as a child, his boss is in on the conspiracy, and his firing was all part of the plan, as was the closure of the Buzz Lightyear ride just as he and his son approached the boarding area, much to his son’s distress. A helmet in the shape of the Epcot dome manifests around his head and scans him. He escapes, and in doing so discovers that the interrogator was an animatronic robot. Disoriented, he searches for Sara during the nightly fireworks celebration. He again encounters and now attacks the wheelchair-bound man, then returns to the mysterious woman’s room, where he discovers that she has kidnapped Sara and is reenacting Snow White, in costume. The woman begins to ramble about her time as a Disney princess and again entrances Jim with the amulet, until Sara smashes it and Jim becomes free of her power. He returns to his hotel room and puts his daughter to bed alongside his wife and son. Suddenly, he begins to have severe digestive distress and then begins to vomit up hairballs. He begs Elliot for help, but Elliot closes the bathroom door and in the morning, Jim is found dead by his wife. He is covered in blood, as is the bathroom, his eyes have transformed into cat’s eyes, and he has a huge grin on his face. Disney cleaners swoop in on the scene and clean up all evidence that a death occurred, and take Jim’s body away in an unmarked van. While they are loading with it, another van pulls up and from it emerges a man who looks exactly like Jim, the fantasy woman from the Soarin’ ride, and a young girl, presumably their daughter, ready to check into the hotel.

REVIEW:

It is kind of funny that I’m watching Escape from Tomorrow right now. About this time last year, it was released and I took a trip to Disneyworld. Sunday, I watched something else Disney related, Saving Mr. Banks. Also, one of my very good friends is taking a trip to Disneyworld in the coming weeks. Not really sure what all that has to do with anything, but it is a nice coincidental chain of events.

What is this about?

On the last day of a family vacation at Disney World, Jim White learns that he’s lost his job. Soon thereafter, he begins to lose his mind, wandering through the artificial phantasmagoria and becoming obsessed with two perky French girls.

What did I like?

Disney. I’ve long been a huge fan of all, well, most things Disney (not counting the parade of whores they’re churning out of there these days and the subar programming on Disney Channel). Long have I been a fan of Disneyworld. I’ve been there 3 times in my lifetime, and hope for more. In spite of what this film’s primary purpose was, it still can be viewed as an advertisement for Disneyworld, as the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center are on full display, as well as the hotel/resort where the family was staying.

Balls. In this day and age, taking a random person’s picture is sure to cost you because everyone wants to make a buck. Disney is no exception. They are very protective about their product, but allow YouTube videos and such because that serves as advertisement for the park. Why can’t other companies and such feel the same way? At any rate, the people behind this film had to have some balls to go in and film this without the Disney people knowing about what they were doing. We all know how much power the Mouse wields. If you don’t, well, just watch the final scene of the film where a character is killed and a cleanup crew comes in and wipes everything clean before anyone can notice.

Cast. As this is an independent film that was made without the consent of Disneyworld, it should come as no surprise that this is a largely unknown cast. I think one of the French girls has appeared on some FX show once or twice, but that’s it. No complaints from me about using unknowns, though. Each and every one of our favorite actors, musicians, and other people of fame were unknowns at some point, too. So, perhaps this could be the start of something bigger, or it could just be a small project that has a decent cast.

What didn’t I like?

Cat flu. Maybe it is because the mascot for Disney is a mouse, maybe there is some cat flu rumor going around Disneyworld that I just had never heard of, or perhaps it could be that this was just some made up stuff they used to make the film more interesting. Who knows? What I am aware of, though, is that they snuck it in, forgot about it, then made it a pivotal part of the final scene. Seems to me that it would have been more effective had they chose to develop the cat flu angle a bit more, but that’s just me.

Kids unleashed. The kids in this film are horrible. First off, there is the sweet little girl, who isn’t too bad, except when things don’t go her way, she stomps her feet, screams, and starts pouting. A little boy in the park pushes her down, causing her to skin her knee. Was this on accident? No, the bully looking little boy did this on purpose. Finally, there is the son who seems to have a thing for looking at his father and closing the door on him. In the opening scene, he locks him out on the balcony. In the final act, he does something similar, but I won’t say what, for fear of spoiling things.

Shrew. The wife in this film is so unlikable, no wonder her husband was obsessing over the two young French girls. She just seemed to be the consummate nag, never having anything positive to say. How can anyone become so jaded and unfeeling towards a person they have devoted their life too, I wonder? Had she been a loving wife, perhaps this would have been a different film, for better or worse.

Escape from Tomorrow is not a film to watch if you’re expecting to see a nice little family film that serves as a sort of guide for Disneyworld. As a matter of fact, it does everything but that. While it doesn’t go so far as to be anti-Disney outright, it does show that it might not be the so-called “happiest place on Earth” that it claims to be. I loved my time down there last year, though, so I guess it depends on the person. Do I recommend this film? If you’re a fan of Indie films, then this is more your speed. If not, then it is quite possible that won’t enjoy this film as much as others. I know that I was expecting something more along the lines of Westworld, but that didn’t happen. Still, no reason why you shouldn’t at least give it a shot.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

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