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Come Out, Whoever You Are

(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

bomb shelter. With Alicia Silverstone, Christopher Walken, Sissy Spacek.

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

"Encino Man."

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,

and his IBM and AT&T stocks, worth millions. But there are some real

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

bomb shelter.

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

O.J. Simpson).

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

comedy.

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