'Late for Dinner' doesn't waste time traveling back to the past

On movies

September 20, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

LATE FOR DINNER'' is an anomaly, an old-fashioned film that might have been done in the '30s. It is also thoroughly delightful, spinning along, raising questions as it does, then settling everything with a postscript that is as amusing as it is inspired.

W.D. Richter did the direction. He's the man who directed ''Buckaroo Banzai'' in 1984. He's done nothing since as a director, and it's nice to have him back.

The film, which is really sci-fi, introduces us to two young men, brothers-in-law who have been involved in an incident that leaves one of them, Willie (Brian Wimmer), wounded.

His brother-in-law Frank (Peter Berg) is a bit slow-witted -- a descendant of Lennie in ''Of Mice and Men'' -- and when Willie is wounded, Frank takes him to a kindly physician who offers to freeze both the men. You'll be thawed out, years from now when you can have the new kidney you need, he tells Frank.

Fine, says Frank, that sounds good.

Twenty-nine years later, through accident, the two men return to life. Of course, they want to return to the life they knew, but is it there?

At this point, Richter and scriptwriter Mark Andrus could have gone anywhere with this film. They could have had the two men react to all the new inventions, all the changes that have taken place. But instead, they ask us to accept the situation and allow the plot to move ahead.

Joy, Willie's wife, is 53 now, but she looks very good, about as good as Jane Fonda. Well, maybe not that good, but good.

Willie's daughter is grown. Jessica (Colleen Flynn) is the first to meet the returnees and accepts their explanation, which is nice, because it saves a lot of time.

Willie finally meets his wife, who, in the intervening years has married and divorced and currently has a boyfriend. At first, she can't accept the idea of Willie's return. Finally, with Willie's persuasion, she tries.

The many questions that come to mind during the running of the film are answered at the very end, during the closing credits, so don't walk out on the film before they are finished. It's a very clever device, and if it doesn't settle everything, it settles almost everything.

Wimmer and Berg do exceptionally well, particularly Wimmer, whom you may know from the television series ''China Beach.'' Peter Gallagher is the man who shoots Willie in the early part of the film.

''Late for Dinner'' opens here today. There are similarities to the ''Back to the Future'' trilogy, but this film is much easier to follow than those.

''Late for Dinner'' *** Two young men are frozen then return to life 29 years later.

CAST: Brian Wimmer, Peter Berg, Marcia Gay Hardin, Colleen Flynn, Peter Gallagher

DIRECTOR: W.D. Richter

RATING: PG (violence)

( RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

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