[Screen It]


(1999) (Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate Minor Mild None Minor
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Smoking Tense Family
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Romantic Comedy: Having spent his entire life in a completely isolated fallout shelter, an optimistic 35-year-old man ventures forth into the aboveground world and eventually falls for the jaded young woman he's hired to help him find supplies and a future wife.
Having lived his entire life in the completely isolated Los Angeles fallout shelter that his somewhat eccentric inventor father, Calvin Webber (CHRISTOPHER WALKEN), built and then inhabited in the early 1960's, Adam (BRENDAN FRASER) is a thirty-five-year-old man who's never seen the aboveground, outside world. Nor has he ever seen another person other than his father or picture-perfect mom, Helen (SISSY SPACEK).

Raised and educated by those parents who believe that their home was nuked during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and that human mutants probably now roam the city, Adam, whose perspective view of the world is stuck in the '60's, finally goes to the surface when they believe the radiation levels to be safe and realize they need more supplies.

Telling everyone he meets that he's on business from out of town, Adam sets out to fill his mother's several-year "shopping list," as well as find himself a physically health, non-mutant wife to bring back to the fallout shelter.

Naive to the ways of this new "world," and realizing that he can't find his way back home, Adam is happy to run into Eve Rostokov (ALICIA SILVERSTONE), a romantically jaded young woman who earlier prevented him from being ripped off.

Although she thinks he's crazy, she's drawn to his charming and good-mannered demeanor, and eventually accepts a temporary paid "job" helping him find those supplies and a wife. As Eve and her gay friend Troy (DAVE FOLEY) set out to help their relatively clueless new friend, a romance begins to blossom between Adam and Eve.

Older preteens and teens, especially if they're fans of Brendan "George of the Jungle" Fraser and Alicia "Clueless" Silverstone, probably will.
For brief language, sex and drug references.
  • BRENDAN FRASER plays a 35-year-old man who was raised to have good manners and behave like a gentleman. Other than cussing some (he was told that the "s" word is an innocent French word), he's exactly that.
  • ALICIA SILVERSTONE plays a jaded young woman who cusses and drinks some, has a somewhat sour attitude, and had a live-in boyfriend. She does fall for Adam, however, and helps him on his mission.
  • CHRISTOPHER WALKEN plays the eccentric inventor who mistakenly holes up his family for 35 years. During that time he drinks some, but also teaches his son most everything he needs to know.
  • SISSY SPACEK plays Adam's loving mother who also drinks (occasionally quite heavily) and likewise educates him.
  • DAVID FOLEY plays Eve's gay friend who helps her and Adam.


    OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
    Although such occurrences are becoming more rare with each passing year, it used to be that you'd occasionally hear on the news about the discovery of some grizzled old Japanese soldier holed up on some remote island who believed that WWII had never ended and was still raging on. Completely removed from society, the poor guy had lived for decades without knowing of any historical or societal events and facts that had occurred and changed since his "disappearance."

    While the topic of "temporally challenged" characters has been explored in movies such as "Awakenings" (where a previously catatonic individual suddenly "comes to life" and realizes that the years and society have passed him by), one has to wonder if any other individuals or groups are holed up somewhere, unaware that life, history and time have moved on without them.

    That's the fun, high concept notion behind "Blast From the Past" where a family from "down under" (the ground, not Australia) resurfaces after spending three decades waiting out the radioactive half-life of a presumed nuclear attack.

    In general, high concept ideas are the powerful, one-line descriptive sentences that can jump start a movie project faster than it takes the pitched words to roll off the writer's lips or the profit- driven drool from a producer's mouth to hit the table. Playing off the "duck and cover" paranoia that pervaded the early '60's, "Blast From the Past" is the epitome of such a simple, but powerful concept, and for the beginning of the film it works wonderfully well.

    Although the Cold War has long since thawed and the Cuban Missile Crisis is a long forgotten memory -- and probably isn't much more than a brief historical footnote to most anyone under eighteen -- the first half hour of this film is literally a blast to watch as the societal and cultural mores of that bygone era are fabulously sent up.

    With the rather large fallout shelter -- designed to appear like a home, complete with windows and a "backyard" -- and the behavior of the family inside serving as a microcosm of that time and society, the film's first third is nothing short of delightful and funny to watch.

    Unfortunately, the characters -- and the film -- have to come up for air, and as the story steps into the present, much of that fun escapes like air from a punctured balloon. From that point on, the film turns into a version of yet another Hollywood favorite -- the "fish out of water" story. From the likes of "Back to the Future" to "Crocodile Dundee" and many other similarly based films where a character is lost or misplaced in a "foreign" world, such plots are almost always sure-fire audience pleasers and this one has a great deal of potential.

    As such, and with their humor originating from pointing out the societal or temporal differences between two places or times (that we often unquestionably take for granted or have simply overlooked as quaint or outdated), the films are often social statements buried within grand entertainment.

    Yet this picture lets a great deal of the comic potential and societal commentary slip through its celluloid fingers. Although it does contain some rather blunt jabs at the decay of our norms with the degeneration of a malt shop over the years and the overall notion of "utopian" suburbia falling prey to urban sprawl, the lack of fully exploiting such comedic potential is both surprising and frustrating.

    Just like its failure to maintain the near brilliant execution of the splendid first thirty minutes throughout the rest of its runtime, the film also fails to fully exploit the seemingly endless array of comic possibilities provided by the "out of water" scenario. With our protagonist's knowledge of the world ending with history as we know it in the year 1962, what we have is essentially a modified time travel movie with our hero arriving from that era unaware of the societal, and other important changes that haven place in the intervening years.

    Yet while writer/director Hugh Wilson ("The First Wives Club," "Guarding Tess") and freshman co-writer Bill Kelly occasionally use this material (such as an underwear joke featuring the Ralph Lauren label that was already similarly done in "Back To The Future" with Calvin Klein), they seem more intent on showing Adam dancing to the song "YMCA" and in a fun and peppy jazz club number (or mistaking the use of the "s" word and thus occasionally repeating it), than fully and cleverly using or exploring the comic "fish out of water" material inherent to this particular setup.

    For example, after a bellhop tells Adam that he must dial 9 to "get out" of a hotel (make a phone call), the film abandons what might have been a quite funny scene that could have unfolded in the slapstick tradition of "I Love Lucy." With that and other moments being missed, the film loses much of its momentum as the story progresses and clearly would have benefitted more by playing up (and off) Adam's isolation-based, naive viewpoint.

    Speaking of which, and apparently not worried about playing yet another character who's not quite "there" or up with the times, Brendan Fraser ("Gods and Monsters," "Encino Man") is perfectly cast as the somewhat befuddled, but good-natured protagonist. To his credit, in this film and in last year's "George of the Jungle," Fraser doesn't play the complete and/or simple idiot (that's reserved for Pauly Shore), but instead manages to give his characters enough personality and charm to make them endearing instead of annoying.

    However, Alicia Silverstone ("Excess Baggage"), who's never quite regained her stride after starring in the perfect vehicle for her, "Clueless," doesn't fare nearly as well. It won't come as much of a shock to state that she's got something of a limited acting range, and that, coupled with a weakly constructed character, doesn't bode well for her performance here.

    Despite occupying comparatively short time on the screen and considering and the nature of their supporting roles, Christopher Walken ("Mouse Hunt," "The Dead Zone") and Sissy Spacek ("Affliction," "Coal Miner's Daughter) all but steal the show. With Walken delivering a fun variation on his standard wacky/demented character and Spacek completely playing against her normal acting type, the two obviously had fun shooting this picture and the result clearly shows on the screen.

    Unfortunately, they're forced into the backseat when the main thrust of the plot takes over, and no matter how attractive and charming Fraser and Silverstone may be, they simply can't compete with their more seasoned co-stars and their performances that give the picture a fun kick-start.

    While the film moves along a good clip throughout, and is an enjoyable enough diversion, it's too bad that it can't sustain the comically maniacal pace, witty charm and overall goofiness that pervades its first half hour, and that it overlooks most of the fish out of water potential that naturally follows such a high concept set-up. Something of a letdown after its buoyant and funny beginning, the film is decent, but certainly not as good as it should have been. We give "Blast From the Past" a 6 out of 10.

    Here's a brief summary of the content found in this PG-13 rated film. Profanity is heavy due to 1 use of the "f" word, and a medium amount of other words and phrases (both religious and otherwise "colorful") also occur.

    The interior of an adult bookstore is seen (and includes the sight of many porno videotapes, although many of their covers are visibly blurred out), some mild sexual discussions occur, and Adam's father has a brief solicitous encounter with a transvestite.

    Some drinking occurs (with Helen appearing to become or already be an alcoholic) that includes Eve and Adam, and some brief drug references are made. Beyond all of that and some brief punches thrown in a bar, the rest of the film's categories are relatively free of major objectionable content. As always, however, you may want to take a closer look at what's been listed should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness.

  • Several people have drinks (martinis) at a party, including Calvin.
  • In their underground shelter, Calvin has a martini and Helen also has a drink.
  • Helen has another drink, and we then see her pouring some cooking sherry into another bottle and then taking a swig from it.
  • Some people have beers in a pub.
  • We see Helen apparently passed out drunk.
  • A person pours vodka into some orange juice in a bar.
  • A guy in a bar mentions "cocaine anonymous" and "heroin anonymous" (that such things now exist).
  • A man pours himself and another man some drinks in a bar.
  • Helen tells Adam that there used to be things called liquor stores above ground and that he should go to one to restock their supplies.
  • Eve brings champagne cocktails for her, Adam and her friend, Troy.
  • Helen has another drink.
  • People have drinks in a jazz club, including Adam (Rob Roy), Eve (a drink) and Troy (beer). Later, Eve and her old boyfriend drink shots.
  • Helen has another martini while Calvin also has a drink.
  • Calvin mixes drinks for himself, Helen, Adam and Eve.
  • We briefly see a person vomit on the street.
  • Some neighbors make fun of Calvin and his eccentricity.
  • Some may take offense to a comic scene where Adam spots a black person for the first time and innocently says, "Oh, my lucky stars...a Negro!" (He does go up and graciously introduce himself).
  • A baseball card buyer tries to rip off Adam and underpay him for his vintage cards.
  • Eve's old boyfriend is demeaning to Adam.
  • None.
  • Handgun (or fake handgun): Very briefly aimed at Calvin by some punks who repeatedly pull the trigger but no shots are fired.
  • Adam asks a derelict on the bus next to him whether he has a gun. The man hesitantly says yes and Adam then thanks him for not waving it around.
  • Phrases: "D*ckhead," "Laid" (sexual), "Bitch," "Bitching," "Nutty," "Nut case," "Hell hole," "Screw" (nonsexual), "Screw you," "Screwed up," "Idiot," "Bites" ("the big one"), "Butt head" and "Slut."
  • Eve swerves through traffic, cuts across freeway lanes to an exit, and doesn't stop at stop lights in one scene.
  • None.
  • A tiny bit of dramatic music plays in one scene.
  • A rap song is present where the lyrics couldn't be understood (and therefore may or may not have something objectionable in them), and another song mentions "sex" and then has the line, "tell our children how to do it right."
  • At least 1 "f" word, 5 "s" words, 3 slang terms using male genitals ("d*ck"), 10 hells, 5 damns, 2 craps, 2 S.O.B.'s, 1 ass, and 6 uses of "G-damn," 2 each of "Oh God" and "Oh Lord" and 1 use each of "Good God" and "God" as exclamations.
  • Calvin unknowingly lights a cigarette for a transvestite who tells him that he can be a boy or a girl for him, his choice. Calvin later tells Helen of these above ground mutants that can be both sexes.
  • Calvin unknowingly walks into an adult bookstore (we don't see the inside yet, but only hear his reaction to what he sees).
  • Eve defines a "d*ckhead" to Adam as "a walking penis capable of speech."
  • We briefly see parts of a bikini-clad woman on TV, and then later on rollerblades (high cut bikinis that show cleavage).
  • Learning that Adam wants her to help him find a wife in two weeks, Eve says "I can probably get you laid in two weeks" but that finding a wife would take some time. He later asks her what she meant by "laid" but she tells him she'll explain it later (she never does).
  • Eve tells Adam that Troy is gay and he responds, "Good for you."
  • A woman in a jazz club shows some cleavage, causing Troy to ask her, "Do you check these (her breasts), or are they carry-on?" She replies that they're the latter.
  • Jealous, Eve asks Adam who's just arrived, "You're supposed to be having unprotected sex with that slut..."
  • Eve says to Adam, "I know this is stupid, but humor me. Have you ever had sex before?" He says that he hasn't and she asks how that's possible. He then explains the whole fall out shelter story.
  • Looking for the entrance to Adam's underground home, Eve and Troy enter a nearby adult bookstore (that advertises "peep shows" on its window-front sign). Inside, we see the covers of many porno videotapes (with several of them having been purposefully blurred for this film), but nothing explicit other than titles such as "Dual Dykes" and "Hispanic orgies."
  • We briefly hear Calvin giving Adam his sex talk and saying "the sperm swims toward the egg" (while making an egg penetration gesture).
  • Calvin smokes a pipe several times, while we also see miscellaneous people smoking at a party, in a bar and on the street.
  • None.
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis and the whole cold war issue (where people actually did have fall out shelters in their homes).
  • The differences between life and society in the 60's and today.
  • An unmanned plane crashes into a house, destroying both.
  • Eve's old boyfriend throws several punches at Adam (including several cheap shots), but Adam blocks each of them and subsequently punches this guy in the face several times.
  • Adam accidentally backs a truck into a parked car, smashing its front.
  • A social worker briefly attacks Troy and has to be held back.

  • Reviewed February 1, 1999 / Posted on February 12, 1999

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