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Late for Dinner (1991)

Kino Lorber
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/14/2015

All Ratings out of


Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/10/2015

The words "time travel" and "subtle" rarely, if ever, go together. When we think about time travel movies, big, ostentatious titles like The Terminator, Back to the Future, and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure come to mind -- over-the-top sci-fi extravaganzas which deal with time travelers having to save the world in one form or another. There is usually a "fish out of water" elements, as the travelers deal with the differences from their time, but this often takes a backseat to bombastic action. Very few filmmakers have focused on the more nuanced effects that time travel would have on an individuals. That is why W.D. Richter's 1991 film Late for Dinner should be a special movie. But is it?

The year is 1962 and the simple-minded Frank (Peter Berg) lives happily with his sister, Joy (Marcia Gay Harden), and her husband, Willie (Brian Wimmer). Willie has been behind on his mortgage, so he approaches local developer Bob Freeman (Peter Gallagher) about settling his debt. However, Freeman is not an honest man, and during an altercation, Freeman is assaulted, his henchmen is shot, as is Willie. Convinced that they will be charged with a crime and knowing that they can't return home, they drive all night, finding themselves in California. Seeking help for Willie's gunshot wound, they meet Dr. Chilblains (Bo Brundin). Unbeknownst to them, the doctor has been experimenting with cryogenics and he convinces Frank that the now unconscious Willie will survive if they undergo the procedure. When an accident upsets the tanks in Chilblain's lab, Frank and Willie awaken to find that they've been asleep for 29 years. Scared and confused, they attempt to make their way back to New Mexico in order to see their family. But, will their family still be there?

I guess that instead of a "time travel" movie, Late for Dinner is more of a "time displacement" movie. Frank and Willie don't technically travel through time, but by waking up 29 years later, they face the sort of confusion and challenges which face those who have time-jumped. At first, they simply assume that people in California dress differently, but as they observe modern oddities (like giant flip phones!) and inflation, they begin to suspect that something isn't right. (One of the most interesting and subtle things occurs when Willie is surprised to get a male operator on the phone.)

And while Late for Dinner contains these elements, the movie is about as far from sci-fi as one could get. (Especially when one keeps in mind that cryogenics was once believed to be a viable proposition.) Again, this isn't really a time-travel movie and Frank and Willie's long sleep is more of an inconvenience than a real obstacle. This is somewhat surprising, as the film was directed by W.D. Richter, a true Hollywood maverick who directed The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and wrote Big Trouble in Little China and 1978's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Clearly he is someone who is acquainted with sci-fi and the supernatural, but you'll find none of that here. This is due to the presence of screenwriter Mark Andrus, making his debut here. He would go on to pen movies like As Good As It Gets and Life As A House.

And here we have the problem with the movie. This is simply a melodrama which just happens to have a 29-year time jump in the middle. The real focus of the film is Willie's love for Joy and his desire to get back to her. That's great, but it all comes across as very hokey and cheesy. Part of the problem is Frank's narration, which opens the film and continues throughout. We never quite grasp while Frank is simple-minded (it has something to do with his kidneys??!!), and instead of being endearing, his behavior becomes annoying after a while. The first act, in which Frank and Willie flee the scene of a crime, is incredibly heavy-handed, the middle, in which they are adjusting to 1991, is disjointed, and the third act doesn't go anywhere. The movie wants to show that love conquers all, even time, but the result is difficult to swallow. That aside, it should be pointed out that a year later, a movie called Forever Young, featuring a more well-known cast and a script by an unknown writer named J.J. Abrams appeared.

Late for Dinner made me want a wolf burger on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Kino Classics. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. For the most part, the image is sharp and clear, showing only trace amounts of grain at times. There are no overt defects from the source materials. The colors look OK, but some shots look slightly washed-out. The image is never overly dark or bright. The most notable issue with the video transfer is that it simply looks flat. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which run runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. However, it has very little presence. There a few stereo effects, most coming from cars crossing the screen, but otherwise, most of the audio comes from the center channel.

The Late for Dinner Blu-ray Disc contains no special features.

Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long