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Blast from the Past shows that the old values may be forgotten, but can still work

Updated on December 20, 2012

My next selection as a possible alternate feel-good movie for the holiday season is the 1999 movie Blast from the Past. This time, there's no noticeable amount of Christmas present, but I just really enjoy it.

I was still in Brazil when the movie came out, so it took me a little while before I finally got around to seeing it. But when I did, I enjoyed it instantly.

Pre-Rundown Christopher Walken has some very understated but solid comedy chops. Pre-Mummy Brendan Fraser does a great wide-eyed innocent. And I've had a bit of a crush on Alicia Silverstone for a while.

But first, the story

In 1962, right as the Cuban Missile Crisis starts to heat up, we find eccentric genius and Caltech nuclear physicist Calvin Webber (Christopher Walken) leading his pregnant, reluctant wife, Helen (Sissy Spacek), into a fully stocked fallout shelter. In a freak accident, a jet crashes on their house. As a result, believing "the bomb" had been dropped, Calvin activates the locks which are set to only unlock after the radioactive fallout has subsided: 35 years.

After a couple days, Helen gives birth to their son, Adam, down in the fallout shelter and they spend the next 35 years, just the three of them.

In that amount of time, the neighborhood above their shelter gets developed and completely falls apart, while Adam is raised to be the epitome of the kid every 1960's parent wants. Polite, well read, and completely un-knowledgeable of the wiles of the world.

After the 35 year timer goes off, the doors unlock and Calvin goes up in the middle of the night to assess the state of society. And surprise surprise, the middle of the night in a rundown 90's California neighborhood turns out to not be the best picture of modern society.

Calvin runs down into the fallout shelter and has a mild heart attack. So the parents decide to send Adam (Brendan Fraser) up top to collect a few more supplies in preparation for spending another few years underground until society rights itself.

Adam has a very different experience from his father. He almost immediately gets lost and can't find his way back to the shelter. He meets the reluctantly helpful Eve (Alicia Silverstone) when he tries to sell some of his father's baseball cards to raise a little more money. And he very quickly falls for her.

He eventually convinces Eve to help him collect all the supplies he needs and she, initially turned off by his optimistic cheer, decides to try and help him—with the help of her gay roommate Troy (Dave Foley)—find a girl, since, despite her efforts to dissuade him, that appears to be something he wants.

Dot dot dot

The only negative thing I really have to say is actually a somewhat integral aspect of the story. One key element is when they place Adam and Calvin in situations where they are confronted with the much grittier society they've emerged into. That means that we constantly run into some of the seedier and disagreeable characters that I don't find particularly entertaining.

The obligatory PG-13 "F", for instance.

Past that, however, it's actually very fun to see how easily Adam's innocence and optimist may set him apart, yet he still rises victorious and happy almost every single time. The jaded and cynical like to think they are the only ones to see it as it is, but more often than not, they only ruin their own happiness.

And Fraser and Silverstone actually get along quite well onscreen.

It's not the deepest movie, but there are some elements that I really enjoy.

Like a pre-Joss-Whedon Nathan Fillion getting his nose flattened by Brendan Fraser

And there are some very charming and funny lines that are made even funnier with Brendan Fraser's wide-eyed innocence:

"Well if it will make you feel any better, I don't have a gun."

"I think I'm being chased by a psychiatrist."

And his early fascination with seeing the sky for the first time in his life.

Basically, the storytelling and characters could be tightened and fleshed out, but it's almost the prototypical "feel good" movie.

But what do you think?

4 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of Blast from the Past

For me, it gets a solid 7 / 10.

Blast from the Past is rated PG-13 for a bit of sexual innuendo, a couple slightly off-color scenes, one "F" along with several scatological references and other milder obscenities.


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