This 1999 culture clash romantic comedy is just so much fun to watch, you find it sort of disappointing when it ends. The story of a man that grew up in a fall-out shelter right under the growing region of the San Fernando Valley from 1962 and did not come to the light until 1999 is amazing and funny. So how did this all happen? It starts during the height of the Cold War, when Castro had missiles aimed right at Key West, and the whole of the nation was caught up in communism paranoia. It all started at the residence of Calvin Weber (Christopher Walken), a professor at a prominent science college in SoCAl, and his very pregnant wife, Helen (Sissy Spacek). They are having a fun get together with all their friends, mixing champagne cocktails and martinis, listening to Perry Como on the hi-fi stereo, swapping recipes, and the like.
Calvin is telling bad jokes at his bar, and Helen is cooking up a roast when a news story breaks about the missile crisis, and sirens start to go off all over town. Calvin is not only a professor, but an inventor, and since the crisis began, he has been building a fall-out shelter, and now seems the time to go there. The guests disperse, and Calvin and Helen go down to the replica of their house underground. Meanwhile, a Navy pilot is flying over the area when his plane malfunctions and he has to eject. The spinning plane nosedives right into the Weber house as the Webers make into the shelter, and the crash collapses the entrance. Calvin and Helen are convinced that the bomb has dropped, and the shelter security program locks them in. Minutes later, Helen goes into labor. Soon, they have little Adam Weber, and thus begins the story of a stranger in a strange land that is actually his own home.
So, we get some time in clips as the decades pass above and below, watching Adam grow up, and the town above them grow and fall, when the property above them changes from a malt shop in the mid=60s, to a pizzeria in the mid-70s to a punk bar in the early 90s, to the condemned building it becomes in 1999. Below, Helen is going stir crazy, and manages not to get too wild with the booze stash, but we see her constantly sipping on martinis throughout the years, but Calvin is still very paranoid about stuff that no longer has any relevance. When Adam (Brendan Fraser) turns thirty-five, the security locks come undone, and Calvin goes up to check on how things are up top. The neat little residential area and surrounding orange groves are gone, and not only does he come across what used to be the Purgatory punk club, when he comes outside, it is raining, and he runs into a transsexual prostitute (Jazzmun), a bum eating from the garbage, a drunken hag, and some gangbangers in a hip-hop car. He slips into an adult book store to get away from the craziness to be hit by even more craziness. He goes back down, tells Helen and Adam about what he has seen, and due to all the excitement, he has an attack. Helen has no choice but to send Adam up to get supplies and Adam is getting a little lonely and wants a wife of his own. The man is a complete innocent, living on 60s values, and 60s food and exercise, so he is in great shape physically, but very stunted on social issues. His graces are fine, since he learned them from his well-educated and very well-mannered parents, but now he will be going to a place where the social graces are far more lacking. Helen gives him quite a bit of vintage cash, and he also takes up his box of vintage baseball cards and what his dad called, “Useless stock certificates” from Xerox and IBM.
Adam has no idea of the treasures he carries with him, but when he tries to sell a baseball card at a hobby shop, and the owner attempts to rip him off, the sales girl, Eve (Alicia Silverstone) intervenes, and this begins a local adventure for her, and soon her friend Troy (Dave Foley) are caught up in Adam’s assignment to restock the fall-out shelter, and Adam learns more in a week than he ever dreamed of wanting to know. This is one great comedy about innocence lost, and found, when it comes in the form of someone strange and wonderful, which is what Adam Weber is. Maybe some of those 60s ideals might not be such a bad thing to reflect on, so long as we do it with a 21st century kind of wisdom.
I give this film a Musing review of