Like the isotopes that provide the plot’s organizing principle, Blast From the Past is half-gone halfway through, a darkly promising gambit decaying into a rote, soft-focus romantic comedy. Blast starts in the wild days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, imagining not the eradication of an L.A. nuclear family but its accidental encasement in concrete: A twitchy scientist (Christopher Walken, puffing at a pipe as if he were perpetually smoke-signaling DAD) mistakes a plane crash for the Big One and seals himself and his family into a backyard shelter with a three-decade time lock on the door. Dad laments the lost upper world but as the years grind on, you get the feeling he knows he’s not only avoided atomic annihilation but the fall of Saigon, the Panthers, Women’s Lib, and Watergate. He’s clearly pleased as punch, but isolation forces his wife (an appropriately scattered Sissy Spacek) to self-medicate on the dwindling hooch while son Adam grows into the perfect, albeit chastely horny, progeny (effectively played by that master techni cian of blandness, Brendan Fraser).
When the 30-year timer on the shelter pings, Adam is sent up top for supplies and finds L.A. a bewildering wonderland. “The amount of reconstruction is amazing,” Adam quips earnestly about the skyline (folks think he’s referring to earthquakes), and he about falls over when he sees his first real-life black person (she just thinks he’s white). But Adam is no dope and realizes there has been no apocalypse; his situation is complicated by a love interest unfortunately named Eve (Alicia Silverstone), as well as by the good son’s impulse to protect daddy’s fragile, outmoded worldview. The film’s first half does an unexpectedly energetic dance in which retro-Americana worship is paired with a knowing wink. But about the time Adam and Eve get down to re-creating their own personal Eden, Blast loses its way, settling for the standard coupling two-step. Things pick up slightly during the last reel (Adam’s talk about his parents living in the ground starts causing problems), but oddly enough father does end up knowing best here, Blast From the Past most fun when it’s locked up with daddy.