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"Escape From Tomorrow"

It's a small world after all

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When it premiered at Sundance last January, "Escape From Tomorrow" quickly gained notoriety based in large part on the unusual way in which it was filmed. To capture his unique vision of the corporate culture's dark underbelly, director Randy Moore shot his movie without permission in the Walt Disney World and Disneyland theme parks. In a daring bit of guerilla filmmaking, his bare-bones crew snuck handheld cameras into the parks and filmed the actors amidst the actual crowds of vacationing families.

Besides being filmed illegally, the film doesn't exactly depict Disney in the best light, so naturally it wasn't expected to have much of a life following its festival debut. Most predicted that Disney would threaten legal action if the film was ever released, and "Escape From Tomorrow" would be doomed disappear and eventually fade into obscurity. But shockingly, the company has (thus far) remained completely silent about the movie, choosing instead to simply not acknowledge that it exists at all. And so for now, audiences are free to enjoy the utterly bizarre surrealist-sci-fi-horror-comedy without worrying that Mickey's lawyers will come pounding at their door (though the film's official website includes a counter ticking off the number of days that the filmmakers haven't been sued). Currently available On Demand, "Escape From Tomorrow" will have a theatrical release in Rochester when it gets a brief run at the Little Theatre starting on October 26.

Family man Jim White (Roy Abramsohn) begins the last day of his Florida family vacation by receiving a phone call from his boss kindly informing him that he no longer has a job. But with little time to fully process this development, Jim heads off to spend a day at the park with his wife (Elena Schuber) and two adorable children in tow. Once in the park, however, Jim starts to lose it. Demonic faces appear to him on "It's a Small World," he hallucinates his wife saying some less than loving things to him, and he starts obsessively following around a pair of teenage French girls. Jim's losing his grip on reality, but it's unclear whether he's having a nervous breakdown, or there's something insidious happening at "Happiest Place on Earth."

There's a lot of ideas bouncing around amidst all the lunacy, from the danger in chasing after lost youth to the inescapable nature of our corporate-controlled culture, as well as a commendable commitment to being as trippy and weird as possible. These ideas are undermined slightly by the film's inconsistent execution (perhaps unavoidable considering its production method) and sometimes juvenile tone. Also, its female characters are...not the best. Still, it's totally worth seeing, if only for the sheer audacity of its conceit. "Escape From Tomorrow" is Moore's first film, and with such an auspicious debut, it's a safe bet we'll be hearing a lot more from him in the years to come.

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