Review: 'Blast from the Past' doesn't fizzle, but no sparks either
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By Reviewer Paul Clinton
(CNN) -- "Blast from the Past," starring Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone, Sissy Spacek and Christopher Walken, is set during a period in U.S. history when the paranoia of the nuclear age was in full swing, and bomb shelters and the motto "duck and cover" were seen as rational solutions to surviving an atomic war.
I love the concept for this film.
It's 1962, and an eccentric couple with a bomb shelter in their backyard (Calvin and Helen Webber, played by Walken and Spacek) head underground in a moment of confusion: during the Cuban missile crisis, a plane crashes in their backyard -- they mistake the crash for the beginning of World War III. They're locked below ground by an automatic timer that won't release for 35 years, the half-life for contamination.
Mrs. Webber, nine months pregnant at the time of the crash, gives birth in the shelter, where the couple raise their child (Adam, played by Brendan Fraser) in a cultural vacuum.
For the first part of this film, Spacey and Walken carry the story. Walken is wonderful as Calvin Webber, the paranoid-scientist father, and Sissy Spacek is a delight as Helen, the scramble-minded but well-meaning mother. Dad teaches the child science and foreign languages; Mom teaches him table manners and how to dance. The product: A perfect gentleman, circa 1962.
Release from shelter a relief
It's interesting to see the family change as the years go by in this very claustrophobic environment.
But it's still a relief when the story breaks above ground as we flash-forward to the '90s. Los Angeles has gone through some major social changes. Where their charming suburban home once stood, there is now a sleazy bar with a porn store next door.
When Adam goes topside for supplies, the drugged-out wacko who owns the bar thinks he's the second coming and starts a religious movement right there on the spot. But Adam can't be swayed from his mission. He must find supplies and a woman. Adam may be as pure as driven snow, but it's gets lonely down in that shelter. Hello, he's 35 years old!
His parents suggest he finds a non-mutant girl (remember, they think WWIII has taken place) and it would be nice if she was from Pasadena. Eve, a very cynical, very modern Los Angeles woman, fits the bill, but she wants nothing to do with him -- at first. Even after they fall in love, she's kept in the dark about Adam's "sheltered" background.
From here on the film is turned over to Fraser and Silverstone, for better or for worse. Like "Pleasantville" and some other recent films, "Blast from the Past" offers stark contrasts between the values of the past (Adam) and the present (Eve). In this case, the differences create some bizarre moments and some genuine humor.
This film is uneven at times in pacing and narrative, but for the most part it works. Walken and Spacek are both consumate professionals and wrap their characters around their little fingers.
But even though Silverstone has a SAG card, that doesn't make her an actress. Paging Gretchen Moll, paging Reese Witherspoon. There's a long list of actresses who would have been better suited to this part. Fraser, on the other hand, is perfectly bewildered in his role. But it seems this "fish out of water" bit is the only emotion he knows how to play. He's done it in practically every film he's ever made.
Nonetheless, "Blast from the Past" is a sweet-natured comedy that is worth seeing; you should go check it out. Think "Ozzie and Harriet" meets "Married with Children."
"Blast from the Past" is rated PG-13 for brief language, sex and drug references. 105 minutes.
New Line Cinema, a Time Warner property, is a sister company to CNN Interactive.
'Blast from the Past' merges '60s and '90s
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