An altercation with the law leads two men into the hands of a cryogenic scientist who decides to freeze them so they can live in the future free from their troubles.
In 1962, fleeing from a complete misunderstanding with the law, unemployed milkman Willie (Wimmer) and his slightly retarded brother-in-law Frank (Berg) run into a scientist who decides to try out his cryogenic process on them, freezing them until they can be defrosted in a future where Willie won't be in trouble with the law and Frank can get his kidney transplant. Accidentally revived in 1991, our simple-minded heroes try to go home, only to find that Willie's daughter is now older than he is, and that his wife Joy (Harden) is a successful businesswoman on the point of retirement and mildly involved with a senior citizen.
Surprisingly, Late for Dinner - a few Back to the Future-ish jokes, including an inevitable Ronald Reagan crack, aside - doesn't play its Rip Van Winkle theme for fish-out-of-water comedy, but instead opts to tread in the eternal love footsteps of Ghost by concentrating for its emotional climax on the way Joy and Willie work out their drastically-interrupted relationship. The opening section briskly establishes the situation, with a little help from Peter Gallagher as an evil property developer, but once it gets to the future, the science fiction angle is left on ice, along with the deus ex machina cryogenics characters who take a discreet fade never to turn up again.
As directed by Richter, whose last film was the quirky Buckaroo Banzai, this is certainly a soft-centered movie, with central characters, exceptionally well played by Wimmer and Berg, whose lack of smarts is sometimes touching but more often just requires dollops of explanation that slow the already stately film down to a dead halt. Although only marginally successful and deeply unoriginal - everything that doesn't come from the When The Sleeper Wakes chestnut seems cribbed from Of Mice And Men - this is a somehow likeable film.
You might feel ashamed for responding to such gooey sentiment, but the last reel, where all the characters are on the point of tearful hysterics, does hit all the right buttons.