Rated PG-13 - Running time: 1:46 - Released 2/12/99

Remember the early days of the cold war? Kennedy, Kruschev, the Cuban missile crisis . . . and fallout shelters. Many people constructed these underground living quarters spacious enough to accommodate their families for years, in the event of a nuclear attack. You know, when the Commies drop the nuke, you can't just go down there and camp until the fires go out. You've gotta wait decades — until the radiation danger passes. Blast From The Past, directed by Hugh Wilson (Police Academy, Guarding Tess), written by Bill Kelly and Hugh Wilson, and starring Brendan Fraser (George Of The Jungle) is the story of one such family, the Webbers, who actually moved into theirs — in 1962 — and did not emerge until 35 years later.

Calvin Webber (Christopher Walken) and his wife Helen (Sissy Spacek) are the typical 1960s family. They live in a California ranch house brimming with formica and stainless steel. He's intensely paranoid about the Communist threat, she's 9 months pregnant, and then it happens: The president appears on TV and says there's trouble in Cuba. Just as Calvin and Helen climb down the ladder, a malfunctioning fighter jet crashes on their house. Calvin is certain the Commies have done it — he closes the hatch, sets the time lock for 35 years ("in case we try to get out"), and settles in for a couple decades of quality underground living while the mutants roam the surface.

Luckily, Calvin planned ahead well. They have everything they need (they'd better have), and when Adam is born, he begins his life in comfort rivaled only by Hitler's bunker. The first half of the film follows his 35-year development, being taught not only the three R's, but history, science, French, dancing and boxing lessons, and — above all — how to be a gentleman.

When the locks finally release, Calvin goes above and sees modern-day L.A. at its most decadent: bums, freaks, adult book stores. He returns downstairs but is injured before he can re-lock the doors. Helen, who has had cabin fever since about the third day of seclusion, sends Adam up for some supplies, in case they really do have to stick it out for another couple of years. And so, at 35 years of age, our hero (played as an adult by Brendan Fraser) finally gets his first breath of fresh air.

On the surface, he meets Eve Rustikov (Alicia Silverstone) and her gay friend Troy (Newsradio's Dave Foley), who at first think he's a complete psycho, but soon develop a fondness for his simple take on life and his excellent manners. He hires Eve to help him gather 10 years' worth of food and supplies, and "find a wife." Before long, she thinks he's a psycho again.

Brendan Fraser has expressed an affinity for playing "fish out of water" characters. In addition to George Of the Jungle, he played Encino Man, the ice-caked caveman who is thawed out and introduced into Southern Cal society. But Adam Webber is his best fish yet. Fraser is full of charm and good-natured innocence, and he and Silverstone spark well together. Her sense of melting barriers and emotional confusion is nice to watch, and their first kiss is profoundly satisfying. Wilson's Blast is sort of the opposite of last fall's Pleasantville; this time it is the early-'60s guy plopped down in the '90s, rather then the other way around. But it compares the two time periods in the same thoroughly enjoyable way, and its first half (starring Walken and Spacek) and second (starring Fraser and Silverstone) balance out nicely. ****½

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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