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This 'Blast' Doesn't Last

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 12, 1999

  Movie Critic

Blast From the Past Alicia Silverstone falls for Brendan Fraser in "Blast From the Past." (New Line)

Hugh Wilson
Brendan Fraser;
Alicia Silverstone;
Christopher Walken;
Sissy Spacek;
Dave Foley
Running Time:
1 hour, 52 minutes
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent

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"Blast From the Past" saves its best for first.

Caught in the hysteria of the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 1960s, a California family are testing their backyard fallout shelter when they hear an explosion.

Actually, it's a plane that crashed into their house. But family head Calvin Webber (Christopher Walken), a brilliant, paranoid scientist, assumes the commies have dropped the big one. With his doting wife (Sissy Spacek) beside him, and provisions to last until the end of nuclear winter, he closes his steel bunker door – and its 30-year time locks – on the world.

While "Blast" stays underground, it's an enjoyable satire about preserving the white picket fence soul of America. Unto this nuclear unit, a son is born. They call him Adam. Under Calvin's relentless tutelage, the son learns the arts and sciences, grows up on "The Honeymooners" and Perry Como, but has real problems when his dad tries to explain baseball.

Walken is no Ripley from "Dr. Strangelove," with talk of the commies stealing precious bodily fluids, but he's full of goofy 1960s spirit. And as Helen, Spacek produces some delightfully gonzo turns. Determined to stand by her man, despite her screaming need to return topside, she takes woozy refuge in Martinis.

But when the time-triggered locks finally open, we're shoved abruptly into a mediocre comic romance. In this "fish-out-of-water" situation, Brendan Fraser (the grown Adam) essentially plays a 1962 version of the caveman he played in "Encino Man."

He meets Eve (Alicia Silverstone), a jaded woman who has seen everything except a wet-behind-the-ears naif with amazing intelligence, who likes seersuckers, has an incredibly valuable baseball card collection and is looking for an eligible "non-mutant" from Pasadena to repopulate the world.

This second section, despite all kinds of story business with Eve and her gay friend Troy (Dave Foley), has its moments, but not nearly enough of them. When the Webbers literally break the surface in their homemade elevator, for instance, the bleary owner of the bar that occupies their former home site, believes Adam and his parents are some sort of celestial trinity. He immediately starts a religious cult dedicated to worshiping them.

It's also funny to watch the Webbers deal with a world that they assume is peopled with post-nuclear mutants. Given what they see of modern Los Angeles, there's little evidence to contradict their observations.

The relationship between Adam and Eve –apparently the crowd draw of the movie – is no testament to greatness. Watching Eve fall slowly in love, with only occasional laughs to make it sing, is a tough task. And director Hugh Wilson (co-writer with Bill Kelly), who directed the moribund "The First Wives Club," has no comic metronome in his head. Eventually, as with nuclear fallout, we find ourselves waiting patiently for things to die down before we can emerge into the daylight.


© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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