This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Matisse van Rossum’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Before I dive headfirst into this review like a fat kid into a kiddie pool of banana pudding, I need to go ahead and give Randy Moore credit for being gutsy and taking more than one big risk with this film. The first risk obviously was filming the majority of Escape from Tomorrow in Disney World/Land without getting caught. That's a pretty big achievement, and he deserves credit for creativity and balls, and for the fact that he actually succeeded. The second risk was the concept of the film in general. Unfortunately, this risk resulted in failure, I think, due to poor execution.
I like the idea of portraying Disney World from a perspective in which it's far from "the happiest place on Earth." What I like even more is the idea of doing this in surrealist narrative style. For the first half of the film (give or take a couple of scenes), I think Moore accomplished this pretty well. Jim's crumbling relationship with his wife and the loss of his job coupled with his intense sexual frustration provides a pretty good setup for his descent into madness. His obsession and subsequent stalking of the two underage French girls made me suitably uncomfortable, which was clearly the goal, so kudos there. However, here's where my problem is. This theme and the way Moore portrays it makes it seem to me as if he's trying way too hard to be David Lynch. The sexual symbolism throughout the film is hardly subtle, and even slaps you in the face a couple of times, and to tell you the truth, I don't go to films to be slapped in the face by creepy-middle-aged-man-stalking-and-eye-raping-two-teenage-French-girls-while-holding-his-young-daughter/son sexuality. I think part of the reason Moore did this is also because he was trying to make it somewhat of a comedy. The combination of trying to be Lynchian and comedic at the same time comes off awkwardly and rather abrasively . I think I would have enjoyed this film much more if it hadn't tried to be so funny and had taken a more serious tone.
This aside, visually the film is beautiful. Shooting in black and white was the perfect choice, I feel, and not a choice many directors would make. It desaturates (quite literally) Disney World and makes it a much more strange and alien environment, robbed of its color. There were a good number of pretty impressive shots, considering the guerrilla style in which it was filmed, particularly shots of the park completely empty, which Moore and the crew achieved by being first in line in the morning and running ahead of the masses to get the shots that they needed. Despite this, there were several scenes with very poor green screen and CG work, which totally removed me from the film and just put a bad taste in my mouth. It wasn't at all believable and completely ruined the spectacle of the film, which is by far its strongest feature. And what do you get when you remove a film's strongest feature? The film shitting itself to death, much like the main character at the end of the film, which I found suitably macabre. It really serves as a good metaphor for the film as a whole, especially after the "intermission." There were entire segments and scenes which I believe could have been completely removed and wouldn't hurt the film at all with their absence. And there are too many of these to go into detail, which is never a good sign.
I'll end on a positive note. I did ultimately enjoy the film's message, which is the fact that Disney World is, for some people, more of a living hell than the happiest place on earth. It may not be a place where the princesses are actually high-price prostitutes for Asian businessmen (one of the ideas I actually did like; rather chilling in theory), but with extreme heat and humidity, long lines, overpriced souvenirs and food, and screaming children, the park can easily turn a happy family into a distraught, angry, sometimes even violent family. Moore also draws attention to the idolatry that has developed through the years of Walt Disney himself and his parks. We see this with the crowd and the French girls holding and hands and watching the Epcot fireworks show with almost religious rapture, and with the shot of Walt Disney's statue and the word "Jesus" in sky writing above. I'll once again compliment Randy Moore on his ambition and dedication to a film which may not remain in theaters long after its release and which may suffer the wrath of Disney's lawyers. Unfortunately, for me the film was mostly wasted potential, so I hope that, for the cast and crew at least, the risk was worth it.