Blast From the Past

*

Blast From the Past is a cute one-joke comedy, without the cuteness. Its elaborate premise quickly gets wearisome, and the few amusing moments sprinkled here and there are well short of the amount needed to carry this lump of a film.

In the films laboriously long setup, Calvin and Helen Webber (Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek) host a dinner party in 1962. Calvin is a rich and brilliant, but paranoid, inventor. When he hears news of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he locks himself and his pregnant wife in a luxurious underground fallout shelter...for 35 years. The couple has a son, Adam (Brendan Fraser), who lives his entire life in the shelter.

Until 1997, when the locks open, and he has a chance to enter the real world. Sent out by his hesitant parents to seek supplies (and a wife), Adam is very much a fish out of water in the 1990s. Wide-eyed, innocent and naive, Adam must confront a society that bears little resemblance to the idyllic picture painted by his parents.

Enter Eve (Alicia Silverstone), a street-smart 90s woman. At first, she's not quite sure what to make of the overly-nice Adam...so, she works out a business deal with him. She helps him gather the supplies the Webber family needs to last out another 35 years, but, in the process, falls in love.

The film labors through an overly long setup. Every single thing that happens is an obvious attempt to lay the foundation for a future gag or plot development. (For example, when Calvin gifts his son with "worthless" stocks and baseball cards, you just know they'll pop up again.) Walken and Spacek may be game, but are painfully one-note as the "perfect" '60s parents.

The humor in Blast From the Past is comparable to a bleak nuclear landscape. Most of the jokes simply fizzle out before leaving the launch pad. One of the few jokes that works involve the dimwitted owner of the property above the fallout shelter, and his reaction to discovering the Webber family. However, the film isn't content to leave well enough alone, and the gag soon gets repetitive and tiring.

Brendan Fraser is seeming to make a career out of these stranger in a strange world roles. He certainly has the mannerisms down, and simply radiates: "I'm a nice guy, even though I act goofy." However, he did the same schtick much better in George of the Jungle and Still Breathing.

The film doesn't know quite how to handle Alicia Silverstone's Eve. First, her introduction is hopelessly bungled. Then, the film misfires when it tries to add a subplot about her ex-boyfriend. Neither of these are written believably, and she becomes more of a plot contrivance than an actual character.

Sometimes a one-joke comedy like Blast From the Past will surpass all odds and actually work. To achieve that amazing feat requires deft comic writing, superb pacing, and tremendous performances all around. Blast From the Past scores zero for three. Leave this one in the fallout shelter.

[PG-13 - language and sexual innuendo] (New Line)


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