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Thursday, July 23, 2015

BLAST FROM THE PAST -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

The "fish out of water", "stranger in a strange land" story has always been a favorite staple of both comedy and science-fiction.  BLAST FROM THE PAST (1999), while strictly a comedy, feels almost like sci-fi because it's about a man who's been thrust into a future that he doesn't understand and must learn to cope with.  But his present is our past, and his future is...well, us.

The story begins in 1964 when the Cuban Missile Crisis drives brilliant but paranoid scientist-inventor Calvin (Christopher Walken) and his dutiful wife Helen (Sissy Spacek) into their spacious and meticulously appointed fallout shelter, which Calvin seals up with a timer that won't let them come out for 35 years, by which time things should no longer be radioactive. 

Both Walken and Spacek tend to get pretty intense when they're playing serious characters, so they take this chance to be funny very seriously and the result is delightful.  Walken is a wonderful uber-nerd enjoying his climate-controlled life in their underground replica of a surburban dream cottage, while Spacek gives Helen an endearingly desperate quality as she juggles concepts like pot roast and prolonged captivity while tippling the cooking sherry. This entire sequence is loaded with wit and charm.

When their son Adam comes along, Calvin and Helen give him the finest upbringing which includes, of course, intensive home-schooling in the arts, sciences, literature, and etiquette--early 60s style, that is.  So when 35-year-old Adam (Brendan Fraser) is finally ready to leave the fallout nest, both he and his appalled parents are totally unprepared for what they find in the world of the late 1990s.

At this point, of course, the movie belongs to Brendan Fraser, who was born to play Adam.  Sent into downtown Los Angeles with $3,000 dollars and a huge shopping list, Adam does all the expected stuff--marvels at the sky, thrills to his first bus ride, glories in an ocean dip, is amazed and delighted by his fellow human beings--with Fraser skipping deftly between light farce and sentiment without getting either too silly or too sappy.

Naturally, what Adam really wants is to find a girlfriend, which is where Alicia Silverstone comes in.  Her "Eve" is the typical world-weary city girl whose seen-it-all attitude makes her skeptical of Adam's totally innocent nature even as she finds herself falling for him. 

Much fun is had watching her react to such things as Adam's joy at hearing Perry Como on the radio, or seeing him suddenly become the king of the dance floor doing the steps his mom and dad taught him.  While not exactly a comedy virtuoso, Silverstein is seen to much better advantage here than as Batgirl in BATMAN AND ROBIN, which pretty much goes without saying.

She's aided here by "Kids in the Hall" alumnus Dave Foley as Eve's gay roommate Troy, who takes Adam under his wing in matters of fashion, dating etiquette, etc. Troy also plays matchmaker when the burned-by-love Eve starts to worry that beneath his boyish charm, Adam may be some kind of wacko in need of serious psychiatric help.

The film is directed by Hugh Wilson of POLICE ACADEMY fame who also helmed Fraser's DUDLEY DO-RIGHT, so he's no stranger to lowbrow comedy that runs hot and cold.  He does some of his best work here, making the early fallout shelter scenes almost as comically stylized as an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon from the same period and giving the later culture-clash stuff the same nutty incongruity found in THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE. 

The Blu-ray from Warner Home Video is in 16x9 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 English and 2.0 Spanish soundtracks.  Subtitles are in English, French, and Spanish.  The sole extra is the film's trailer. 

Like Adam on the dance floor, BLAST FROM THE PAST only occasionally trips over its own feet.  Most of the time, it's a deft balance of romantic comedy and wacky farce, with some very enjoyable performances.  Best of all, it's like an entire season of a wonderfully offbeat TV series distilled down into a single movie.

Buy it at
Street date: August 4, 2015
Stills shown are not from Blu-ray


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