(two and a half stars) BLAST FROM THE PAST. (PG-13) Brendan Fraser
revives his "Encino Man" in this time-warp comedy about a 35-year-old
man who joins a jaded modern society after spending his entire life in a
Directed by Hugh Wilson. (brief strong language, sex and drug
references). At area theaters.
SINCE HE WAS DUG UP, thawed out, washed, dressed, coiffed and named Link
in the 1992 caveman comedy "Encino Man," tall, dark and vaguely simian
Brendan Fraser has been condemned to playing innocent, lovable hunks on
a learning curve in a strange world.
He does this well: Witness his engaging turns as a klutzy Tarzan in
the family movie "George of the Jungle" and his lovestruck puppeteer in
love with a conwoman in the romantic drama "Still Breathing." Even in
the current "Gods and Monsters," his character - a heterosexual
gardener being inspired, if not aroused, by a gay filmmaker whose lawn
he tends - is a variant of the missing link.
But with his latest role in Hugh Wilson's "Blast From the Past," the
story of a 35-year-old man who enters society after having spent his
entire life in a bomb shelter, Fraser has pretty much worn out the act.
In fact, "Blast's" Adam Webber may be seen as the second coming of
There's a better premise to this story, which begins in 1962, when
Adam's father, Calvin (Christopher Walken), a paranoid engineer and
pioneer survivalist, herds his pregnant wife, Helen (Sissy Spacek), into
his elaborate shelter at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and
sets the door's timer 35 years ahead, when the half-life of radiation
will have expired and it will be safe to come out.
For the next 3 1/2 decades, the family - newborn Adam makes three
- is suspended in time, with film reruns of "The Honeymooners," a
lifetime supply of Perry Como albums and just enough cooking sherry to
keep Mom's anxieties calmed until the end of the millennium.
"Blast From the Past" divides itself between belowand above-ground
sections, with intermittent success at both levels. Walken, whose gift
for light comedy has been underused, is very funny as the nerd
scientist, convinced that he's raising a son for a post-apocalyptic
world that he'll have to help rebuild, and Calvin's shelter is an
ingenious space, with hydroponic farms and fish tanks.
But Wilson ("The First Wives Club") devotes more time to their
sheltered life than the claustrophobic setting and Calvin's
eccentricities can support. When they finally do begin to emerge, the
time-warp contrast is never as imaginative or as magical as you would
hope. The script, by Wilson and story creator Bill Kelly, is awash in
the obvious and void of any genuine insight or irony.
In ways, "Blast" is the obverse of "Pleasantville." Here, the holy
innocent is beamed forward in time, where he encounters an
incomprehensibly jaded environment. Adam is a three-way virgin - soul,
mind and body - and there's nothing like him on earth. Naturally, he's
viewed as either a bumpkin or a mental case by the people he encounters,
including Eve (Alicia Silverstone), a young woman who rescues him from a
fleecing and then, while trying to shake him, begins to fall for his
otherworldly gentleness and charm.
There are some clever conceits along the way. Among Adam's
possessions are his father's baseball card collection, worth thousands,
harebrained concoctions, as well, notably the presence of a drug-addled
ex-hippie who builds a cult religion around the exit hole of the Webber
Once Adam is out among 'em, searching for supplies to restock the
shelter, "Blast" adopts the rhythm of situationcomedy. Watch Adam react
to tough guys, see him cut a rug at a '40s swing club (Fraser actually
shows some deft footwork), see him try to drive a car (he parks like
Fraser and Silverstone do manage a spark of chemistry, and it's hard
not to root for a guy who offers a valuable baseball card for a ride
home and a girl who's too principled to accept it. But "Blast" is
finally a squandered opportunity, a lot of situation with very little