"Blast From the Past" is a sunny, good-natured romantic comedy that is
as light as the air, but almost always charming, and is helped
immeasurably by the occasionally sharp screenplay, written by Bill Kelly
and Hugh Wilson (also posing as the director), and the uniformly strong
cast of relatively fresh, young talents and veteran actors.
The film starts out in Los Angeles in 1962 at a party being held by the
Webbers, scientist Calvin (Christopher Walken) and the 9 months pregnant
Helen (Sissy Spacek), when they hear word about the oncoming Cuban
missile crisis. Quickly getting rid of their guests, Calvin and Helen
desperately make their way down into their own personal fallout shelter
just as a plane crashes in to their house. Thinking the Big One hit,
Calvin sets the locks for 35 years because, as he says, by that time the
radiation will have faded. Equipped with every possible thing they could
need, Calvin loves the life down in the shelter and as the years fly by,
teaches his son, Adam, as if he were in a real school. Helen, however,
eventually begins to go stir-crazy, turning to any alcohol she can find,
even her cooking sherry. Ultimately, 35 years finally pass and the
Webbers decide to send Adam, now a grown man (Brendan Fraser), up into
the world for the first time. Losing his way back to the fallout
shelter, which a slummy restuarant run by a hippie has been built on top
of, all Adam really wants is a girl, which he finds in the form of Eve
(Alicia Silverstone), a cute, but cynical, young woman who is at first
distant with him, but agrees to help him in his quest of buying and
storing as much food as possible, thanks to selling his nearly priceless
35-year-old baseball cards. Eve is not really sure why he is doing such
a thing, but doesn't bother to ask since, after all, he is so unlike all
of the men she has known before, and is more like an innocent boy,
albeit one that is not used to the '90s world.
Although "Blast From the Past" often feels somewhat like "Pleasantville"
in reverse, "Blast" mostly avoids the latter's serious commentary on the
world and so it is inevitably not nearly as deep, but because of this,
also does not fall into the trap of laying the emotions on too thick.
Undoubtedly a romance at heart, the film was therefore surprising how,
in the first half-hour, the characters of Calvin and Helen were the main
focus, and it had a wonderful start, thanks to Walken's and, especially,
Spacek's bright performances. Spacek is usually seen in more dramatic
pictures (as in the remarkable recent "Affliction"), but shows that she
is also a wonderful comedian, and a standout in every one of her scenes
as the loving wife and mother who happens to also be going into a
hilarious descent into booze.
Once the now-grown Adam takes over the film, "Blast Fom the Past" is
transformed into an entertaining "fish-out-of-water" story, as he starts
to discover the world, including the sky and ocean, which he has never
even seen before. One small, but sweet sequence shows Adam sitting at a
window and intently watching the sunrise for the first time in his life.
As a budding romantic comedy, the film is also a success, due to the
charming rapport between Fraser, who seems to recently be switching from
indies ("Gods and Monsters") to the mainstream ("George of the Jungle"),
and Silverstone, who has made her first good film since she appeared in
1995 in one of the best comedies of the decade, "Clueless." Although
certainly nowhere near that level, it is a clear improvement from her
last two failed excursions, the embarrassing "Batman & Robin" and the
misguided "Excess Baggage."
For all of its many engaging elements, "Blast From the Past" is in no
way anything more than merely good. The film is slight, but in a fun
way, and makes no excuses for being anything more than what it sets out
to be, a winsome, frothy comedy. Throughout the film, I laughed out
loudly quite a few times, and was won over by the pleasant two lead
characters whom I wanted to both be happy. The movie delves no further
down than this, but that was quite enough for it to be an entertaining
diversion for 106 minutes.
Copyright © 2000 Dustin Putman