BLAST FROM THE PAST
Release Date: February 12, 1999
Runtime: 106 minutes
Distributor: New Line Cinema
Director: Hugh WIlson
Producer: Hugh Wilson & Renny Harlin
Writer: Bill Kelly & Hugh Wilson
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In 1962, the Cuban Missile crisis has pushed America to the brink of war. Fearing nuclear attack, Helen and Calvin Webber (Sissy Spacek and Christopher Walken) take refuge in their basement fallout shelter. Calvin has been working on this shelter for years, creating it into a livable, decorated underground home. Once the door closes, it is sealed for 35 years so that any radioactive contamination to the world above would be minimized upon their re-emergence. So, for 35 years Helen and Calvin raise their son Adam (Brendan Frasier) underground. Adam and his family only know 1962 food, clothing, entertainment, and morals.
When automatic door unlocks, Adam emerges from his underground home for the first time on a mission to re-stock supplies and search for a new wife. Although he encounters slums, porn shops, homelessness, moral confusion, cross-dressers, prostitutes, and more unpleasantness of modern life, he charms all those around him with courtesy, intelligence, firm handshakes, clean language, and a fine swing-dance step. Above ground, he befriends a smart young woman named Eve (Alicia Silverstone) who helps him adapt to his new surroundings and find the supplies on his list. When Adam tells Eve that he has lived in a fallout shelter, she thinks he is crazy and tries to commit him to a mental institution. Adam must find a way to explain the truth and find the woman he loves before he is caught by authorities.
This clever premise laden with comic potential is billed as a comedy, but laughs are few and far between. During the screening, the theater was strangely quiet. Most of the attempted humor resides in Adam being strangely friendly to strangers, but kindness rarely is comedic; it is just good manners. Drama and humor do mix, when injecting humor into tragedy (like PATCH ADAMS), but seldom mix side by side. BLAST FROM THE PAST didn't know whether to be a fable, a social commentary or a comedy and ended up being "none of the above." (Too bad, because Frasier already has done the blast from the past gig as a caveman, coming to life in modern Encino in ENCINO MAN).
Frasier and Silverstone perform admirably with limited range, and Dave Foley playing Eve's roommate, troy, adds a little pizzazz to the story. Spacek is fairly one dimensional as a doting mother, and the creepy Walken seems miscast as a caring but mistaken father.
BLAST FROM THE PAST isn't as offensive as PLEASANTVILLE for several reasons. One, it doesn't include sex as a major plot device. Second, despite his outdated ways, Adam is seen as a hero and a refreshing example in today's troubled times. His manners, kindness and friendliness seem dated, but are appreciated by all he encounters. He even stands up for morality by rebuking someone who takes the Lord's Name in vain. He says, "I have a big problem with that." Also, he thanks God and says, "Everything is a miracle."
When first Calvin and then Adam rise to the surface from their underground home, a lost bartender thinks that they are holy, The Father and the Son, and even forms a cult around them. This is played for laughs, but isn't very funny. Not that it is all that offensive, but it just doesn't carry much punch. A cross-dressing male prostitute propositioning Calvin seems a little harsh for this PG-13 movie, but a joke is later made where Calvin thinks that the fallout has made male-female mutants. Again, there are no laughs. Better writing and better direction could have helped considerably.
This movie was originally slated to be released last Christmas. Apparently, New Line didn't think it had the staying power to compete with better movies. They were right. BLAST FROM THE PAST may be able to find a small audience now. This second mid-20th Century meets late 20th century movie (after PLEASANTVILLE) hints at better, simpler times in the past, but its message is fogged by poor direction and poor execution. Interestingly enough, both movies fail to see that the answer isn't better morality like a man-imposed conservatism (though manners are always appreciated), but better relationships with God and mankind.