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'Blast From the Past': Innocent Above

By Rita Kempley
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)

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


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Crew cuts, cardigan sweaters and Perry Como records are among the relics unearthed in "Blast From the Past," a spoofy look at the clean-cut culture of the Cold War era and a fond, if not wildly successful, celebration of nuclear family values. Never mind that this tidy, beneficent universe existed solely in those comforting old sitcoms still playing on Nick at Nite.

"Blast" returns to the days when a horse was a horse, father knew best and mothers vacuumed in high heels. Life was simpler if, like Dr. Strangelove, you "learned to stop worrying and love the bomb." But it wasn't simple for Commie-fearing Calvin Webber (Christopher Walken), a paranoid scientist who secretly builds and stocks an elaborate bomb shelter under his suburban home.

At the height of the Cuban missile crisis, Calvin and his pregnant wife (Sissy Spacek) believe World War III has begun and lock themselves in the shelter for the next 35 years. Born in the bunker and reared on his parents' principles, their son, Adam (endearing Brendan Fraser), is literally sheltered from the radical social changes of the next three decades and grows into a perfect gentleman and a dedicated scholar.

When Adam surfaces, however, he's the most wide-eyed of innocents, a hulking Bambi unprepared for the mean streets of modern Los Angeles. The neat bedroom community his parents knew has become a seedy urban neighborhood of adult video stores, biker bars and used car lots. Clearly, this is no place for a rube.

Before he can get into too much trouble, however, Adam meets his Eve Rostokov (Alicia Silverstone), a savvy cookie who takes him under her wing. A child of divorce, Eve's been snake-bit. She's had lousy relationships and meaningless jobs, and she's a victim of rejection and dejection, and undoubtedly carries a condom for protection.

All this has left her man-wary and embittered, but the smitten Adam doesn't seem to notice. Besides, he has been instructed to find a bride, preferably "one who doesn't glow." And he does his darnedest to win her heart while shopping for new supplies.

Eve's gay roommate (Dave Foley) is amusing in the role of Cupid. Unfortunately, he becomes the foil for several dopey jokes regarding his sexual orientation. This will kill you: Adam thinks that being gay means you're really happy. He wants to be gay, too. Actually, the movie probably would have been much more fun and the laughs more plentiful if he found out he was.

Like last winter's "Pleasantville," this movie juxtaposes classic virtues against modern mores. The former did so with far more invention. "Blast From the Past" never really riffs on the differences between nice and naughty eras.

Director Hugh Wilson and co-writer Bill Kelly have a premise rich in comic potential, yet they haven't the script to fulfill it. The 40-minute setup is deliciously nutty, with eccentric turns from Walken and Spacek. But the longer Adam remains above ground, the more plodding and predictable the scenario becomes.

Still, Fraser saves the day with his disarming portrayal of an utterly charming doofus. It's been his specialty: He was a Stone Age naif in "Encino Man," a hapless tree-banger in "George of the Jungle" and a overmatched handyman in "Gods and Monsters." But he once again proves that you can't keep a good man down, even if the man isn't the strongest blip on the Geiger counter.

   

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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