So, about three months ago a blog I followed came out with an article about “the movie Disney doesn’t want you to see” and with a title like that, who wouldn’t be intrigued? Subsequently, I read everything I could find on this movie: how it was filmed illegally in Disneyland and Disney World, how director Randy Moore positioned his actors to be filmed without notice from any tourists around them and the resulting massive lawsuit Disney placed on it (which was dropped only earlier this year, allowing the movie to see light of day). It’s a fascinating backstory, and I couldn’t be more excited to watch it.
The movie’s trailer made the whole thing look like an off-the-rails ,hallucinatory experience with horrifying visuals. The little summary blurbs made it sound like a horror movie about a father losing his sanity in the “Happiest Place on Earth”, however, the movie follows a story arc that not only jumped around in narration, but in genre as well. All of the “scary” scenes were only disturbing to the characters and not the audience. This is a trait not shared by David Lynch films ,to which L.C. Fremont made reference. In a Lynch film, the characters are almost always in on the surrealism and more effectively so. This movie doesn’t begin to live up to the hype, but I didn’t hate it, either. One of the most entertaining aspects was that it was filmed in such a familiar place. I would watch it again if only to point out which scenes were Disneyland and which were Disney World. It’s hard to say, “I’ve been there!” to a lot of horror films. This especially worked for me during the “It’s a Small World” scene because I’m pretty sure that exact same thing happened to me last time I was on that ride. Yet, the movie didn’t scare me. It certainly could have, and probably should have, given the originality of the idea and the fact that it takes place in Disneyland, but, if you ignore the marketing of itself as a horror movie, it becomes something else entirely.
Now, I’m not middle-aged but I highly doubt the male midlife crisis is a horror story. Instead, it’s something ridiculous and quite possibly fake: another thing societal pressures have created in men to make them think they made a mistake getting married, taking that job, etc. just due to hindsight bias. I’m well into the realm of cynicism, but what better place to have a movie about how phony society can be than Disneyland?
Our meathead main character ,Jim, going through this “crisis” , getting spit on by underage French girls for the sake of it dies at the end, having ignored the advice of a robot . The robot is the only one making sense around here. When we see him in a happier situation, he’s entering the hotel in a sort of Kubrickian “Shining” reference that this robot doctor had foreshadowed and tried to help him achieve: the life he always wanted to lead. Yet man (Jim), in his hubris, escapes heroically only to fail. If anything, Moore is telling us to just do it right the first time, though, it’s a lot of ridiculousness to wade through to get there. The biggest problem with this movie is that there isn’t enough here to work with. Not enough to prove my argument, or much else, and what we’re left with is a movie that Disney decided wasn’t that threatening after all. I was entertained, but I really don’t think repeated viewings are going to make any more sense of it. The best we can do is try to understand it, talk about what it might mean, but mainly, make a joke or two about cat flu and call it a day.