Two young men, one in need of medical attention, are cryogenically frozen in the early 1960s. The two are too preoccupied with the fact that the police are chasing them to realize what they are doing. The next thing they know is that they are in a strange new world (thirty years on).
"I wish I never borrowed you."
Each and every year, Hollywood tries to pump out original content by remaking movies that came out a year earlier, but repackaged with a bigger budget, bigger director, new hotshot writer, and a much more expensive cast. In 1991 audiences were given 'Late For Dinner,' director W.D. Richter's second and final directorial effort starring Brian Wimmer, Peter Berg, Marcia Gay Harden, and Peter Gallagher. in 1992 audiences were given 'Forever Young' directed by Steve Miner, written by some guy named J.J. Abrams and starring a few unknown actors with names like Mel Gibson, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Frodo as a cute lovable kid. Both movies tread a lot of similar ground and plot beats, but I tip my hat to 'Late For Dinner' for having more focus and not playing around with too many overly sentimental cliches.
In 1962 Willie Husband (Brian Wimmer) leads a simple enough life. He was a milk man and he owns a nice rustic home with his wife Joy (Marcia Gay Harden). Together they raise their little daughter Jessica and take care of Frank, their slightly mentally disabled relative who has a kidney problem that forces him to pee a lot and take gigantic pills. Their idyllic life is threatened by an unwarranted foreclosure notice that forces Willie to go see local industrialist Bob Freeman (Peter Gallagher).
Willie and his family are all paid up on their mortgage so the notice must be in error. Only there is no error. Bob Freeman want's to clear out the "dirt" as he calls it and build a new modern city out of the rubble. Bob offers Willie ten grand for the property to which Willie replies by burning a hole in Freeman's vinyl chair and shag carpeting with a lit cigar. After making his point clear, Willie rounds up Frank and speeds off towards home. The only problem is Frank invited Freeman's little son Donald to come along with them.
In an effort to take Bob Freeman up on his offer for $10,000 and return Bob's son to him after Frank "borrowed him", everything goes wrong, leaving Bob unconscious and Willie with a bullet in his gut. Willie and Frank leave town not knowing what else to do. Through an alignment of circumstances, the traveling duo meet Dr. Chilblains who offers to care for Willie's wounds and shelter the two men. Unfortunately, Frank doesn't ask many questions of this kind gesture - not even when he and Willie are being injected with mysterious medications and told to lay down in a bed of ice.
It turns out Dr. Chilblains is a pioneer in cryogenics and Willie and Frank are to be their first test cases for a new procedure.The pair are put on ice, wrapped in tinfoil and plastic, and then locked away into tanks of nitrogen. 29 years later after a freak accident causes their tanks to rupture and the two men are revived, Frank and Willie wake up almost good as new. Well, they have some slight freezer burn and their urine is green, but those are only temporary side effects. The main problem of the day is that the world around them has changed and they're from a bygone era that no longer exists. Together Frank and Willie must set off for home and find their loved ones who have grown older and moved on with their lives.
'Late For Dinner' feels like a two act play that was put to screen, and I mean that in a nice way. There is a quality to the production that feels more immediate, like watching a stage production put to screen. I also feel like anyone that's curious about this movie needs to first see director W.D. Richter's previous directorial effort, 'The Adventures of Buckeroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension,' if only so that you have an idea of the man's sense of humor and sentimentality. Much of this movie is a fish out of water story - but at its heart it's a love story. The film hinges on the idea that people may grow old or may even grow apart but that love and respect for one another doesn't have to go away, it's ageless and therefore timeless.
This isn't to say that 'Late For Dinner' is a sappy sob fest either. Between Brian Wimmer and Perter Berg there are numerous genuinely funny moments on display. This is also a great movie that knows how to set up a joke or a gag with some subtle foreshadowing and then pay it off a few minutes down the line - but the jokes aren't the main focus and they never overshadow the heart of the film. Perhaps one of the best elements of this film is the sense of nostalgia. There's a great bit after Willie and Frank wake up and they try to buy two meals with just ten bucks and expect to get change but then learn the scary rate of inflation while they were frozen.
Perhaps I was in an overly sentimental mood, but I couldn't help but be thoroughly charmed by this one. Watching it just put a nice smile on my face and made me wish W.D. Richter had directed more than just two movies during his career. The man's still alive so if Burt I. Gordon can direct a new monster feature at age 92, then there's always a chance Richter might surprise people again with his unique sense of humor and style. If you've never seen 'Late For Dinner,' do yourself a favor and at the very least give this one a rent.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Late For Dinner' makes its blu-ray debut thanks to Kino Lorber and their studio classics line. Pressed on a BD25 disc, the disc opens directly to the main menu with a static image that replicates the cover artwork.
For a second tier distributor, I am rather impressed with Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics line of discs, like 'Barquero,' 'Late For Dinner' makes a grand transition to blu-ray with its 1.85:1 1080p HD transfer. Even pressed on a BD25 disc, this image is an absolute beauty. The print is in fine shape, with only a small instance of wear very early on. For such a bright and colorful movie, everything has a nice lively pop letting primaries strut their stuff, in particular when the film moves from the 60s to the early 90s where the 80s color pallet hasn't quite washed away yet. Black levels are equally impressive here as well offering plenty of shadow separation, three dimensional depth, with little if any contrast or crush issues. Given that the film is compressed onto a single BD25 disc, there may be some slight edge enhancement, but over all everything looks crisp, clear, and with a modest grain structure making for some striking detail levels for this film.
With a DTS-HD 2.0 track, 'Late For Dinner' earns some solid audio points. While a 5.1 up-convert track may not have been necessary, it may have helped during the later sequences set in the 90s. With the center channels doing all of the work, it can feel like a lot of the oomph of some scenes gets taken out - in particular when Willie and Frank visit the a 1991 hospital. Over all levels and imaging is just fine giving the music, dialogue, and sound effects enough space to live without drowning each other out, but again, there is just this slight hollowness to everything that keeps this track from really feeling alive and present. That isn't to say this is a bad track - it's actually quite nice - but I couldn't help but feel with a bit of an upgrade it might have sounded better since it's free of any hisses or breaks of any kind.
No supplemental material present.
'Late For Dinner' is one of those little gems of a movie that few people saw during its theatrical run, didn't make a splash on home video, and was then overshadowed by a similar more popular later release. Thanks to Kino Lorber's Studio Classics, I really do hope that people wanting some nice fun innocent entertainment will discover 'Late For Dinner' and give it a new life on Blu-ray. The HD image is beautiful and the audio is serviceable for a title of this vintage. My only gripe is the complete lack of extras - especially since this was a genuinely good movie - I wanted to learn more about the production. As a movie only release, it's worth the time and certainly worth a look.