A Dark Brendan Fraser Satire Is Streaming Now
Brendan Fraser's 1999 dark comedy satire Blast from the Past is streaming on Hulu.
The recent career revival of Brendan Fraser has been one of the more heartwarming Hollywood stories in quite some time, in large part because of the actor’s seemingly superhuman levels of earnestness. After years out of the public spotlight, Brendan Fraser seems utterly grateful to be in movies and audiences and critics seem just as happy to have him back (even if some studios didn’t get the memo). That puppy-dog quality of Brendan Fraser has never been so well utilized as in the 1999 dark comedy satire Blast from the Past, which is currently streaming on Hulu.
Blast from the Past stars Brendan Fraser as Adam Webber, a cheerful 35-year-old whose entire personality seems to be built on the model of Leave It to Beaver and Perry Como’s easy-listening records. There’s a reason for that: Brendan Fraser’s character was born in a sophisticated, early-1960s fallout shelter built by his eccentric scientist father (Christopher Walken) in their idyllic suburban backyard and he has no knowledge of the world outside it except for the culture, information, and good manners imparted by Walken and his mother (Sissy Spacek).
The film (co-written by director Hugh Wilson and Bill Kelly) is the most high-concept of high concepts and commits to the goofiness of its premise that it can actually obscure the sheer darkness of the premise. Blast from the Past is an endearingly sunny, briskly paced comedy with plenty of physical comedy from Brendan Fraser and broad jokes, but it is also fundamentally rooted in the apocalyptic nuclear terror of the Cold War and the hidden darkness in mid-century Americana.
For example, Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek take refuge in the fallout shelter due to the very real fear of American-Soviet nuclear exchange during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the unfortunate timing of a plane crash over their house makes them think the entire world has been destroyed. For all of the hot Dr. Pepper and baseball card amenities in their fallout shelter, this is still essentially a story in which Brendan Fraser has never seen the sky and was born into an underground cell to a paranoic, mutant-obsessed father and a mother who has been secretly self-medicating with alcohol for decades.
You certainly do not cast Johnny Smith from The Dead Zone and Carrie White from Carrie as a loving, suburban couple without making a few pointed jabs at American conformity. For all the goofiness that 1990s-era Brendan Fraser can bring to a role (which is a lot), Blast from the Past is also a movie in which nearly all the main characters believe different things are happening.
Once a 35-year shelter auto-lock is released, Brendan Fraser is enlisted to scout what is assumed to be an irradiated post-apocalyptic hellhole full of mutants and get supplies for decades more below the ground, but actually just turns out to be 1999 Los Angeles. Whomp whomp.
Once aboveground, Brendan Fraser swiftly gets lost and can no longer remember where the family shelter is, and falls in with a sardonic, but goodhearted Angeleno named Eve (Alicia Silverstone). Armed with a collection of priceless vintage baseball cards, Brendan Fraser and Alicia Silverstone (plus Kids in the Hall’s Dave Foley as her gay best friend) gather supplies and fall in love. All this time, Brendan Fraser assumes she is a mutant, the world has been semi-rebuilt, and she first assumes he’s an idiot, then insane.
Blast from the Past is peppered throughout with odd, sketch-comedy-like scenes, like one in which the diner built above the ruins of Brendan Fraser’s family home slowly devolves into a burnt-out shell overseen by vacant-eyed former soda jerk (Joey Slotnick). Then there’s the requisite swing-dance revival sequence in which Brendan Fraser uses the vintage dance moves taught to him by his mother to make a pair of blonde clubgoers practically orgasmic. Or the scene in which the bashful Brendan Fraser repeatedly, effortlessly bashes Nathan Fillion in the face as the latter keeps trying to sucker-punch him.
Blast from the Past was a disappointment at the box office, pulling in $40 million against a $35 million budget, and not particularly well-received by critics (with the notable exception of Roger Ebert, one of the few reviewers to get that something can be both warm-hearted and satirical). However, 1999 also saw Brendan Fraser kick off The Mummy franchise, so the year was not all bad for him. But if you really want to see him at his wide-eyed best, check out Blast from the Past.