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Time travel for teens

In Disney's TV movie 'Minutemen,' three students can visit the recent past to correct gaffes and save face.

January 25, 2008|Kathy Blumenstock | Washington Post

In high school, the cool crowd rules. The outcasts sit alone in the lunchroom, overlooked and certain that the world is a miserable place.

But in "Minutemen," a TV movie premiering on the Disney Channel at 8 tonight, three decidedly uncool seniors at the fictional Summerton High School find a way to change their world, thanks to a homemade time machine.

Tumbling into a colorful vortex, Virgil (Jason Dolley), Charlie (Luke Benward) and Zeke (Nicholas Braun) revisit the recent past, tinkering with conversations and embarrassing events just enough to help their friends and ensure their own popularity.

"They can only go back a maximum of two days," said Dolley, who found he could relate to his character's fun-loving nature. "Once they're back there, they have a window. They can only stay for 10 minutes to correct the social injustices or turn the jokes around."

The movie follows the adventurers and their classmates, including a cheerleader (Chelsea Staub) and a football hero (Steven R. McQueen), both childhood friends of Virgil's who have grown away from him. Wearing bright white snowsuits and goggles to shield their identities, the Minutemen exercise their own form of time management as they deal with a locker room prank, affect the outcome of a big game and dodge the principal (J.P. Manoux), who's suspicious of those "snowsuit guys."

And then there are all those government agents lurking around town, tracking the Minutemen's activities, because Charlie apparently hacked into NASA computers to steal part of the time machine formula.

"Every time you deal with time-space travel, something will always go wrong," Dolley said. "And things do start to go wrong."

McQueen called the movie "a cute little sci-fi action romance story" that has wide audience appeal.

"Younger girls will like the love story. For the boys, there is the time-travel adventure, and even for parents, there is moral value," McQueen said.

For his role as a star player on the Summerton Rams, McQueen had to learn the game, working with the real-life team that appears in the film's football sequences. He said he enjoyed the experience so much he now plays running back in a league on his own.

Staub said she was fascinated by the concept of the time machine.

"Everybody wants to go back and change something, because even a few minutes can change your life," she said, adding that the Minutemen "aren't going back centuries to fix historic events."

Staub said her character "goes through emotions that every high school girl goes through."

"She likes a guy who cheats on her; she misses Virgil as a friend but doesn't quite know how to fix that," Staub said. "I think a lot of girls will relate. And they'll like the fact that all the boys in this movie are really cute."

Aimed at 9- to 14-year-olds, the movie "deals primarily with issues that are real in kids' lives," said Michael Healy, senior vice president of Disney Channel Original Movies.

"We look at the question of identity -- 'What is it like to grow up,' 'Can I still be myself and have friends?' "

Healy was involved throughout the production of the film, which was filmed in Salt Lake City.

" 'Minutemen' is a comedy," he said. "And if you can make people laugh, you can get everybody in the audience."

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