Screenwriter Mark Andrus and director W.D. Richter give a long buildup to a small joke. After a fight with a real-estate shark (Peter Gallagher) who wants his house, Willie (Brian Wimmer), a married Santa Fe milkman, flees to L.A. with Frank (Peter Berg), his retarded brother-in-law. Taking shelter in a cryonics lab run by Dr. Chilblains (Bo Brundin), they end up frozen solid. The time is 1962, but when the boys are thawed out, it's 1991. Though Willie and Frank look the same, the world doesn't.
Since Richter directed the madly comic Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, hopes are high for a uniquely edgy take on the familiar time-warp theme. No go. Late for Dinner has a low-key charm, but it's as deeply conventional and drippingly nostalgic as Peggy Sue Got Married. Richter sets up each platitude in Andrus's script as if it were freshly minted. Food is fast, music is shallow, and family values are shattered by divorce and careerism. Natch, it's poor, addled Frank who dispenses the wisdom.
Willie's wife, Joy (Marcia Gay Harden), is now in her fifties, and his daughter, Jessica (Colleen Flynn), is a grown woman. Can they accept young Willie into their lives as, respectively, husband and father? Credit Wimmer (China Beach) and Harden (the moll from Miller's Crossing, in layers of age makeup) for treating hokum as if it mattered. But this is one movie that should have stayed on ice.