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Weekly Alibi Nuclear Family.

By Devin D. O'Leary

FEBRUARY 15, 1999:  I'm sure the early '60s were a tense time for those who lived through them. In retrospect, however, the Cold War era seems downright laughable in its paranoid fear of Mother Russia (which quietly crumbled into economic ruin 20 years later) and its quaint "duck and cover" philosophy (which wouldn't protect you from an M-80). Blast from the Past is merely the latest in a long string of films to use the final ticking moments of America's nuclear clock as a springboard for comedy.

Brendan Fraser (an actor I like more and more each time I see him) stars as Adam, our titular blast from the past--a young man born and raised inside his parents' Cold War-era bomb shelter. Back in 1962, frightened by the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Adam's nutty scientist father (Christopher Walken) cloisters himself and his pregnant wife (Sissy Spacek) deep inside the bomb shelter to end all bomb shelters. Mistakenly believing that the Commies have bombed suburban Los Angeles, the Webber family spends 35 years locked inside their underground vault, raising and educating their son in the finest of early '60s values. While the world grinds on above them, the Webber clan remains obliviously ensconced in Perry Como records and Jackie Gleason reruns. One day, as fate would have it, though, a fully grown Adam is forced to confront the modern world for the first time on a dangerous quest for more bomb shelter supplies.

Emerging from his subterranean time capsule into the porn shops, low riders and transvestite hookers of present-day L.A., Adam stumbles naively around the city for a while before bumping into streetwise cute chick Eve (Alicia Silverstone). Adam and Eve? Anybody sense a romance brewing? Sure enough, during his short time on the surface world, Adam has decided to find himself a wife to bring back to his parents' bomb shelter. He enlists Eve's aid in securing an appropriate non-mutant girlfriend in order to repopulate the world with upstanding citizens. The usual amount of fussing and fighting occurs before our two leads realize they're perfect for each other and engage in serious lip-lock.

Sure, this could have been a witty Dr. Strangelove-style parable about Cold War politics. It could just as easily have been a outrageous parody of temporal culture clash à la Austin Powers. Instead, Blast From the Past is happy to settle for being a modestly amusing romantic comedy. No crime, really.

Scattered throughout Blast's pre-fab plot is an abundance of coincidence and convenience. A plane crashes on the Webber household just as they enter the shelter, lending credence to the whole "nuclear holocaust" theory. The fact that dad would build the world's most advanced bomb shelter (complete with fish farm, movie theater and Astroturf veranda) and not think to include a radio is a convenient bit of coinkydink. To top it all off, a wildly inappropriate swing dance sequence is included solely for hip soundtrack appeal. (Swing was a '30s trend, not a '60s trend, fellas.) Despite such niggling anomalies, Blast from the Past buoys itself with an airy charm.

Brendan Fraser is always in his element when playing a happily clueless naïf. Alicia Silverstone, it should be noted, has some success playing a cute chick. While they don't exactly ignite the screen with their volatile chemistry, they do make for a pleasant screen couple. Walken, of course, has little trouble pulling off his crazy pop role. Spacek, meanwhile, does a standout job as the perfect maternal unit who copes with her 35 years underground mostly by getting pickled. Dave Foley (looking for seasonal work away from his shaky series "Newsradio") turns in a funny cameo as Eve's gay roommate.

Had Blast from the Past sucked, it would have been convenient to categorize as "a bomb." Unfortunately for lazy film reviewers like myself, Blast from the Past is a cute, amiable, little romantic comedy. You'll have to supply your own metaphor.

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