By Rob Blackwelder
"Blast From the Past" is one of those high-conceptmovies in which the gimmick becomes an albatross around the story's neck.
An obliging comedy about a 35-year-old man-boy raised ina backyard bomb shelter by parents who panicked during the Cuban MissileCrisis, the movie stars Brendan Fraser as the wide-eyed innocent makinghis first foray to the surface in 1998 on the assumption that civilizationwas destroyed by nuclear war.
What he finds instead is the San Fernando Valley and aromance with Alicia Silverstone.
The movie starts hilariously enough, with Christopher Walkenas a commie-paranoid, Norman Rockwell kind of guy dragging his pregnantwife (Sissy Spacek) into the underground bunker -- which he's fashionedinto a replica of their home -- after mistaking a plane crash in theirneighborhood for nuclear first strike.
Locked away for half a lifetime, they raise their (literally)sheltered son with 1962 sensibilities, while above ground a funny subplotis taking shape in the form of a soda shop built where their house oncestood, that over the years declines into a boarded-up punker bar in a badpart of town.
When Walken determines it's safe to surface, he venturesup at night and misreads the ghetto that used to be their suburban culde sac as a post-apocalyptic world worse than he'd imagined and decidesto stay below.
Fraser, playing the grown son, ventures forth in searchof supplies with a fist full of money and a cigar box tucked under hisarm, filled with vintage baseball cards and what he thinks are worthlessstocks.
While "Blast" stays at least affable throughout,it's at this point the movie starts to slowly unravel. The fish-out-of-watergags are unusually fresh (Fraser sing Perry Como tunes and is dumbstruckby the girls in a Hawaiian Tropic ad), but the rather sloppy script isoften steered into tedious and forced gimmickry in order to advance theplot.
Fraser meets the ringlet-curled and spaghetti-strappedSilverstone in a sports memorabilia shop where she works (as if!), whenhe cashes in a few baseball cards. She gets fired for leveling with himabout what the cards are worth and reluctantly agrees to help him roundup supplies even though he won't tell her why he needs, for instance, twotrucks full of frozen beef.
After rebuffing his giddy, inept romantic advances, shealso agrees to help him shop for a wife (still under the impression thatL.A. is post-apocalyptic, he's planning to return to the bunker and procreate),leading to the predictable make-over from the Silverstone's gay roommate(Dave Foley) and her inevitable jealous epiphany that -- surprise! -- she'sin love with him.
My complaints about "Blast From the Past" aremostly these nit-picky scripting snafus that can be blamed on the screenwritertrying to shoe-horn elements into the story that just don't fit. But thereseem to be hundreds of these things, most of which could have easily beenfixed. Example: A girl like Alicia Silverstone's unlikely employment ina baseball card shop could have been explained away if the shop were ownedby her father or an uncle. How hard is that?
But a more prominent problem is Silverstone herself, whomakes a minimal effort in her lifeless role as a supposedly skeptical andsassy girl of the '90s, and who has zero chemistry with Fraser. He's theone who holds the movie together with his well-timed, farcical performance.
(To be fair, the screenplay gives Silverstone very littleto do. But in the hands of say, Reese Witherspoon or Christina Ricci, TheGirl in this movie would have had enough spark to gloss over some of theplot holes.)
The early scenes in the bunker are actually the funniestpart of the movie, which is almost worth seeing just for Walken. He getsto bust out of his tough-guy veneer and have some fun playing his uptight'60s conservative for big laughs. But once it's in the second act, thegroans catch up to the laughs and ultimately that race is a photo finish.
Run time: 112 mins
In Theaters: Friday 12th February 1999
Box Office Worldwide: $40.3M
Distributed by: New Line Home Entertainment
Production compaines: Forge, New Line Cinema
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
Fresh: 46 Rotten: 33
IMDB: 6.5 / 10
Director: Hugh Wilson
Starring: Brendan Fraser as Adam Webber, Alicia Silverstone as Eve Rustikoff, Christopher Walken as Calvin Webber, Sissy Spacek as Helen Thomas Webber, Nathan Fillion as Cliff, Dave Foley as Troy, Joey Slotnick as Soda Jerk, Mary Ann Hermansen as Heather
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