With All the Makings of a Lynchian Disney Nightmare, Escape From Tomorrow Feels Stale


The most successfully realized element in writer-director Randy Moore’s would-be cult film Escape from Tomorrow, which has all the raw ingredients for a David Lynch–style phantasm, is that it was surreptitiously filmed in Disney World and Disneyland.

While on vacation at Epcot Center with his wife and two young children, a middle-aged American dad (Roy Abramsohn) all but stalks a pair of French Lolitas through the park—children in tow. Meanwhile, his prepubescent son simmers with Oedipal resentment; his long-suffering wife rages, tired of his roving eyes; and his pretty blonde daughter is pretty and blonde. The clincher: Dad is hiding the fact that he just got fired from his job.

The pressure to maintain the façade that all is well is causing him to hallucinate nightmarish visions under the stress of forced (and failing) familial joviality. While Escape is filled with inspired touches (a slightly deranged ex–Disney princess actor lurks in the park, eventually pulling the family into her madness), Moore lacks the off-kilter psychological nuances of Lynch, as well as the go-for-broke storytelling skills and visual élan. It doesn’t help that the cast is largely competent at best.

The dad’s mounting creepiness isn’t complex or compelling, just off-putting. There’s possibility in such an interesting character flaw turning up in the middle of a slightly surreal exploration of the hoary notion that family vacations are time bombs of buried anger and disillusionment. But there’s no payoff of fresh—or just interestingly refurbished—insights into family dynamics, male midlife crises, or the despair beneath the quest for market-defined dreams of happy endings.

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