The Minutemen was not a theatrical release. I get the impression it did run on the Disney Network at one point, but I never saw the broadcast. So, for most of us, this release is pretty much a direct to video affair. The film is strictly for the kids, which is a little bit of a missed opportunity here. The subject matter lends itself to the inclusion of some wonderful references that might have been enough to keep the adult in me interested more. Instead Disney decided on the strictly youth oriented course. Unfortunately for Disney, that market isn’t usually the one with the twenty bucks to bring home the bacon, or in this case, the DVD. All of the adults are pretty much bumbling idiots. There’s plenty of popping music to keep the energy level high enough to keep the kids into it and wear out the adults. There are plenty of teen stereotypes to go around.
Charlie Tuttle (Benward) is a freshman in high school, but he’s several years younger that his contemporaries. He’s the child genius type who has skipped over a few grades. While Charlie might have advanced scientific knowledge, his social skills are still back in the 6th grade. He’s constantly inventing things that are usually quite clever, but tend to have little practical application. As his first year in high school begins, he’s already being taunted and bullied. Enter Virgil Fox (Dolley) who stands up to the bullies but ends up in the same trouble as Charlie. The experience cements a friendship for the two. Charlie has been working on a new design for a rocket car when he stumbles upon a far more exciting application for his theories. He’s discovered time travel. The only trouble is neither he nor Virgil have the mechanical skills to build the device. Enter Zeke Thompson (Braun). The kid is a modern day Fonzie complete with bike, leather jacket, and mechanical skills to build the time machine. In order to access the necessary room and facilities, the trio forms a school club called “The Back To The Future Club” (the only real reference in the film) attracting the notice of fourth member Jeanette (Crane), a hyped up fan of the film, who actually hasn’t ever seen it. She also develops a crush on Charlie, inundating the film with bird nicknames for him throughout. The guys don white snowsuits, because it turns out time travel is cold. Before long they are using the technology to help fellow nerds and geeks avoid practical jokes and embarrassment. The school begins to refer to the mysterious heroes as “The Snow Suit Guys” while the team prefers the term “The Minutemen”, hence the title. Soon they discover there are ramifications to their actions, and they have upset the natural order of high school society. Add to that the realization that the device has created a wormhole/black hole that will devour the entire planet if the guys can’t stop it.
None of the acting is particularly impressive, and the kids are pretty much hamming it up. The chemistry between the trio is fairly solid, however, keeping my interest just a little bit longer. None of the actors are stars, but rather members of Disney revival of the old early days of the “studio system”. One of the supporting cast members is rather interesting. Steven R. McQueen is the grandson of
The Minutemen is presented in its original full frame format. There’s nothing wrong with the presentation, but it never pops for me. It appears to have been shot on video and doesn’t have a lot of visual presence. Colors are solid but never really jump out at you. The f/x look pretty bad and perhaps there was some intentional purpose behind it. Black levels are fair, and the picture is certainly clean. The DVD looks very much like an SD broadcast.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is very vanilla. Of course, I happen to really like vanilla… on my ice cream, not on my soundtracks. Actually the discs just get sticky, and you don’t even want to know what it does to your player. Seriously, there is nothing dynamic going on here. The energetic tunes are about the only things that show the slightest thing approaching dynamic. My sub appeared to fall asleep about 5 minutes into the film, and its rest was never disturbed from that point on. There’s little use of ambient sounds. The dialog is clear and upfront, perhaps the only concern for the target audience. In perhaps an intended reference, when the wormhole closes it sounds a bit like the closing of the gate from the Stargate franchise.
Music Video: There is a three minute music video of the film’s song, Run It Back Again. It’s pretty much techno pop and film clips.
The Making Of Minutemen – A Trip Back In Time: The three leads act as your host for this 10 minute look behind the scenes on the film. They provide a more entertaining format than many of these types of things, making it more accessible to the kids. Most of the piece is dedicated to the kids having fun during production. The feature ends with the requisite question to cast and crew: “What would you do if you had a real time machine”? You mean that vortexy thing wasn’t real?
This is not classic Disney by any means. If I could go back in time, I might have avoided this one, but then again it wasn’t exactly painful either. I would suggest this is the perfect rental, because even if the kids like it it’s not going on the heavy rotation, and you parents out there know exactly how heavy that rotation can be. So on some rainy afternoon, pop this one in and take out a good book for yourself. I hear Disney is already talking sequel. “Yeah, but what kind of fun would that be?”