Director – Lev L. Spiro, Teleplay – John Killoran, Story – David Diamond & David Weissman, Producer – Don Schain, Photography – Bruce Douglas Johnson, Music – Nathan Wang, Visual Effects – Engine Room (Supervisor – Dan Schmidt), Production Design – Mark Hofeling. Production Company – Disney/Salty Pictures
Jason Dolley (Virgil Fox), Luke Benward (Charlie Tuttle), Nicholas Braun (Zeke Thompson), Chelsea Staub (Stephanie Jameson), Steve R. McQueen (Derek Beaugard), Kara Crane (Jeanette), J.P. Manoux (Vice Principal Stewart Tolkan), Dexter Darden (Chester), James Jamison (Agent Renquist), Jason Tatom (Dr Winthrope), Trenton James (Dr Connors), Molly Jepson (Amy Fox)
Virgil Fox and his best friend Derek Beaugard started high school together but Virgil came to regret that day. Charlie Tuttle’s science experiments in building a rocket car went wrong on the football field. Virgil stood up for Charlie as he was mobbed, which meant that he was regarded as a nerd alongside Charlie. Two years later, Virgil is stuck among the nerds and envious of the popularity that Derek enjoys as captain of the football team. He is secretly in love with Stephanie Jameson, who used to be best friends with he and Derek and is now going out with Derek. Charlie then comes up with the idea of building a time machine. Joined by Zeke Thompson, the three of them succeed in constructing the time machine in the school basement. When the attempt to use it to win the lottery fails to have the intended results, they decide they can put it to some good by going back and saving the school’s nerds from embarrassment. Disguising themselves in snowsuits, they become known as the Snowsuit Guys (or as they prefer to be known The Minutemen) and are regarded as heroes around the school. What they do not know is that their ventures back through time are creating a black hole beneath the school and has attracted the attention of the FBI.
Minutemen is one of a host of films that are made for children and young adult audiences on the Disney Channel. Rather than concerning itself with Paul Revere and any militias of the American Revolutionary War as the title might suggest, Minutemen is in fact a children’s time travel film.
Time travel is one of the richest genres within science-fiction in terms of ideas but with its focus as a Disney Channel film, Minutemen‘s horizons prove conceptually underwhelming. The possibilities of making money by travelling into the past are quickly discarded and the teen heroes spend the rest of the film doing no more than acting as de facto superheroes, rewriting events to help nerds around the school from embarrassing situations. As with a great many films about the arrival of some fantastic aid that changes people’s lives, Minutemen has the (conservative) end belief that if you helped people up in the world they wouldn’t know what to do with it anyway, that nerds are better off being left being bullied and the best that one can do in life is to recognise and appreciate one’s friends for who they are rather than to aspire to a higher social standing.
For all its’ uninspiring basic premise, Minutemen conducts it amiably. All of the cast play well. The scenes between Jason Dolley and his object of affection Chelsea Staub come with an appealingly playful sense of humour, of which the film could have done with more of. The premise is certainly wound in some interesting ways – like when Jason Dolley is asked by former best friend, now jock football star Steve R. McQueen to go back in time and prevent him from being caught with another girl so that girlfriend Chelsea Staub doesn’t walk out on him, where Dolley realises that doing so will mean having to give up the opportunity to be with Staub, the girl of his dreams, who has come his way as a result of McQueen being caught. There are also a good many Back to the Future (1985) references throughout.