Television: Disney's 'Minutemen' stresses chemistry, not brain strain
"Minutemen" likely won't hit the ratings stratosphere of "High School Musical," but it's still a zippy and entertaining trip through time that's liable to attract lots of kids to the Disney Channel again.
There are a couple of things this new made-for-TV movie does have in common with the other Disney phenomenon that broke cable records and created a national fever for Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens: "Minutemen" also was filmed in Utah and was produced by Utahn Don Schain and his Salty Pictures production company.
And it does have some of the infectious likability of "HSM," thanks to a trio of young actors who spice up the comedy.
The movie premieres tonight at 9 on the Disney Channel.
Virgil and Charlie (Jason Dolley and Luke Benward, respectively) are two nerdy students at Summerton High (which looks suspiciously like Murray High School) who meet when they become victims of a football team prank and are hung by their undies from the giant statue of the school's ram mascot.
Charlie may be small and young, but he's a genius inventor. His latest creation is using any light source (in this case, a slide projector) to bend time. With the help of Virgil and a loner biker boy named Zeke ("Sky High's" Nicholas Braun), they build a time machine that can send them back a day or two.
While buying a lottery ticket is the first thing they think of (who wouldn't?), the boys decide to use their invention for good instead of evil and go back in time to help other nerds avoid being the targets of pranks by the cool kids.
But when they travel back too far, it creates a disruption in the time continuum. A black hole appears in the high school's football field and starts sucking in the whole planet (which means Salt Lake County is toast, for sure).
"Minutemen" is a nicely paced, simple comedy that, unlike other time-splitting stories, keeps the paradoxes of science at bay. Think of it as an undemanding version of "Back to the Future."
It all works because the heart of the movie is the three boys and their comic chemistry. Benward, in particular, who starred in "Because of Winn-Dixie" and "How to Eat Fried Worms," has a spunky presence. Moms everywhere will just want to pinch his cheeks.
More important, the movie ends up saying something about the value of friendship and teamwork. Yes, those might be overused messages, but if the Children of America are going to rule this country one day, they'd better start learning to be nice to each other.
As a Utahn, I'm pleased with the kind of work that Schain and his Salt Lake City-based Salty Pictures have done after shooting 40 movies in the state, 19 for the Disney Channel. (He has another one coming up later this year called "Dadnapped" that was filmed mostly in Magna.)
His movies, including both "High School Musicals" he produced, have shown audiences the beauty of this state better than any travel bureau could ever do.
* VINCE HORIUCHI'S column appears Mondays and Fridays. He can be reached at email@example.com or 801-257-8607. For more television insights, visit Horiuchi's blog, "The Village Vidiot," at blogs.sltrib.com/tv/. Send comments about this column to living firstname.lastname@example.org.