Picks and Pans Review: Late for Dinner

updated 09/30/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/30/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Brian Wimmer, Peter Berg

Plenty of movies these days satisfy urges to enjoy vicarious violence and revenge, or voyeuristic sex. There aren't many that satisfy the need for whimsical, unfettered-by-reason-or-reality romance and love as thoroughly as this delightful film does.

Directed by W.D. (The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai) Richter and written by newcomer Mark Andrus, Late for Dinner revolves around Wimmer and Berg, two brothers-in-law in Santa Fe. They are put into a cryonic freeze in 1962 by a benevolent mad scientist who's helping them escape a frameup; they wake up in 1991.

Richter and Andrus have obviously seen Back to the Future. Wimmer even does the same joke Michael J. Fox did about Ronald Reagan being President. There are other time-lapse references, involving automatic cash machines, high prices and portable telephones.

The movie exists, though, to let Wimmer (Boonie on China Beach) try to reclaim Marcia Gay (Miller's Crossing) Harden, the wife he unwillingly left behind 29 years before, even though she has aged while he hasn't. Berg is Harden's brother, mildly retarded and kidney damaged at birth but a model of good-heartedness.

Both Wimmer and Berg, in fact, are surrealistically innocent. The characters' lack of guile, and the ingratiating Wimmer, Berg and Harden, neutralize the story's excesses. Richter, never taking things too seriously, gives the film a relaxed, daydream tone.

And when in recent memory has there been a sweeter line than this one, delivered by the still youthful Wimmer as he contemplates the 29 years he missed and the now wrinkled face of the woman he loves: "I wish I was to blame for every laugh line on your face. For it just burns me to think someone else made you smile." (PG)

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