`Blast' makes sweet treat

Review: Small moments and great performances put a lot of bang in `Blast From the Past.'

February 12, 1999|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

Just in time for Valentine's Day, "Blast From the Past" arrives as a sure-fire date movie to please everyone. A sweet boy-meets-girl love story to please shameless romantics, this fish-out-of-water comedy is funny enough to keep even un-romantics entertained.

And this is a movie that crosses generational lines, as well: Although the lead players, Alicia Silverstone and Brendan Fraser, will clearly appeal to teen-agers and young adults, two hilarious supporting performances by Sissy Spacek and Christopher Walken make "Blast From the Past" worth seeing for filmgoers who may have aged out of those particular demographics.

Fraser plays Adam Webber, who has grown up in a fallout shelter in Los Angeles since his parents (Spacek and Walken) took refuge there the night of the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Don't feel too sorry for the Webbers: their bunker is a deluxe affair, fitted out with a patio, a Price Club's worth of groceries and a prototype of a VCR.) Convinced that the atom bomb had dropped, Adam's father kept the family underground for 35 years, until he calculated that the radiation's half-life had dissipated.

Still, Adam wants desperately to see the sky, to swim in the ocean and to find a wife, and Mother Webber (Spacek) desperately needs more supplies, especially booze. So when the automatic locks come loose and the "all clear" sounds, he climbs on to the shelter's elevator and pushes "Up."

On the surface, Adam immediately gets lost and is almost taken for a ride by an unscrupulous baseball card dealer (Adam's collection of Mickey Mantles and Yogi Berras is worth thousands), until he is saved by Eve (Silverstone), a moxie dame in ringlets and high heels who can't figure out if Adam is a square or a hustler. He talks her into helping him buy the supplies and enlists her help with the wife search, too.

Silverstone uses the pout she made famous in "Clueless" to its maximum potential here, but the real star is Fraser, whose genial, boyish appeal is encased in a physical package of imposing stature -- when he engages in an impromptu "YMCA" dance with Eve's roommate (Dave Foley), or when he takes over a retro nightclub with the dance moves he learned in his time-capsule living room, he flails and grins like an ecstatic whooping crane.

These bouts of physical comedy are amusing, as are Adam's anachronisms (when he hears the name Heather he exclaims that he's never heard of that name before), but the most satisfying moments of "Blast From the Past" are the small ones. Spacek steals the show as Adam's mom, who resorts to cooking-sherry and sarcasm when the ennui of the fallout shelter sets in (she missed out on the whole Betty Friedan thing, remember). Foley makes the most of the modern version of the Eve Arden role in romantic comedies, that of the gay male best friend.

Even though "Blast From the Past" focuses on Adam and Eve's obstacle-ridden romance, the movie's director, Hugh Wilson ("The First Wives Club," "Police Academy"), does a good job of conveying the decay -- physical and moral -- of contemporary life.

When Adam's father makes a reconnaissance mission to the surface, he is met with a vision of modern despair -- homeless men and women huddling in abandoned bars, junkies throwing up on the street, adult bookstores, transvestite hookers -- and he returns to the shelter convinced that the planet has been overrun with a sub-species of mutants. "Blast From the Past" is no message movie, but it has a few good points to make, and does so with a gentle, observant wit.

`Blast From the Past'

Starring Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone, Sissy Spacek, Christopher Walken, Dave Foley

Directed by Hugh Wilson

Released by New Line Cinema

Rated PG-13 (brief language, sex and drug references)

Running time: 106 minutes

Sun score: * * *

Pub Date: 2/12/99

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