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.
So, it's been awhile. I missed talking about movies. I just could not figure out what to say about this one. And I was procrastinating pretty hard with regard to the next one. You'll see why. Anyway, Escape from Tomorrow. I couldn't figure out what I liked or didn't like, and I didn't feel like I could finish writing about it until I knew, or at least think of some jokes, but, dang, it's been like five months and it’s time to punt.
This was made at Disney World -- the cast and crew just pretended to be tourists and shot most of their footage before being gently asked to knock it off. So there's that, and it's a pretty good stunt. Jim White is a forty-something white guy, getting a little chunky, with a wife and two small children. The mood's already wound kind of tight, because small children traveling, and out of the blue Jim's boss calls and tells him he's fired, for no reason. Jim keeps this to himself, to not ruin everyone else's day, and off they all go to the park. Jim starts seeing weird stuff out of the corner of his eye, puppets with evil faces, his own children with black demon eyes, his wife Emily laughing at his distress. There are signs everywhere warning of a dangerous flu strain. Emily starts picking up the weird vibe and generally everything they do starts out fun and turns ugly, every single thing they interact with turns out to be rotten under the surface, but they all soldier on because it's this relentless theme park machine, and it's easier to go along with it than stand still and think. They keep running into two teenage Parisian girls and Jim enjoys watching them with rapidly decreasing subtlety, which doesn't help. He's surprisingly hard to sympathize with, despite all this undeserved crap happening to him. Eventually the drinking hours arrive and things get very weird, very fast and to describe would be to spoil... and also I just don't think I can. Weirdness piles on weirdness and then explosions and maybe robots? It got kind of awesome? In a way that will bug you for five months.
I think this film couldn’t decide what it wanted to do and just spun out all of its plot threads without firmly relating them to one another. There was the French Kids/Cat Flu thread, the Demonic Faces thread, the Creepy Rude Family thread, the Jim is a Robot(?) thread, the Princesses Turn into Witches thread… The Is My Son Evil thread. I think it was a mistake to have Emily also experience the weirdness. When it was all just happening to Jim, you could say it was all in his mind and come to some conclusions from that. Maybe kind of hackneyed conclusions, to be fair. But to have Disney World really be haunted and sinister is unsatisfying somehow. Perhaps because some of the plots really did seem to be just in Jim's head, and mixing them with things that were really happening kind of undercuts both. Leaving the audience to draw their own conclusions about the ending is fine, but you can leave too much up for interpretation, you can turn your movie into a big box of questions and it’s just not satisfying.
I don't know if this comes across much, but when I watch a movie, I try pretty hard to like it. (Oh man, especially if they're trashy. Too bad this one was earnest instead.) It's not a conscious decision, I can't help it. Despite the Arrangers' sometimes strange sense of humor, I don’t ever come at these things like they're new targets to savage, not even when they send me a legendary piece of shit. I think Escape from Tomorrow kind of bent my head a little because there were many things in it to like, and it is legitimately a cool project, but somehow it all came together in this uncomfortable wrongness. Robots, maybe! Surrealism! Feminism sidebar! Creeping horrors only glimpsed sideways... I love all that stuff. Was it just that the main character leading me through the story was kind of a cruddy dude I didn't like? If that's all it takes for a movie to fall apart then it seems like a miracle that any ever hold together.