NETFLIX GRAVEYARD / MOST VALUABLE PRIMATE

WRITTEN BY LOUIE CARROLL

It took some serious digging in order to find a film worthy of this edition of TFR’s prestigious Netflix Graveyard title.  However, when you come across a movie about an animal playing a sport of any description, you know you’re probably on the right track. The nineties were a great period for athletic animals.  There was Air Bud, story of a basketball playing golden retriever. There’s Joe,the Matt LeBlanc starring tale of a baseball-playing chimpanzee and who could forget Soccer Dog, the film about a..well you get the idea. Perhaps the nadir of this era came in 2000 with the arrival of MVP: Most Valuable Chimp, another chimpanzee this time but one with a natural flair for ice hockey. Our hero is a genius primate called Jack.  After the death of the college professor who cares for him, Jack escapes the university’s attempts to sell him to an animal testing facility.  A missed stop on a train leads him to snowy Canada instead of his originally intended destination of an animal sanctuary.

Meanwhile a brother and sister pair of Steven and Tara struggle to adjust to their concurrent relocation to the Great White North after moving from California.  Why are they there? (We never find out, not relevant.)  Tara is deaf and finds it hard to make new friends at school. Steven is having problems of his own settling in to his new hockey team, the wonderfully named Golden Nuggets.  Who on earth could save these kids from their predicament you ask.Fresh off the train Jack and Tara have a chance encounter and instantly become friends. She then brings Jack home to meet the family. After greeting everyone at the breakfast table, it’s not long before this chimp is sleeping in Tara’s bed, because that’s what you do with stray monkeys.

If all this seems a bit far-fetched, it’s nothing compared to the leap the filmmakers ask of you with the next big plot development. Jack decides to further integrate himself into the family by following Steven to his hockey training session, throwing on a pair of skates and trying his hand at the sport.  Lo and behold, he’s the best player on the failing team, so naturally, they sign him up.A hockey playing monkey is a pretty far out concept and the filmmakers make absolutely no effort to explain why Jack is so good at his newly adopted sport. No magic skates,no genetic enhancement, nothing. He’s a just a chimpanzee. Who can play hockey. Really well.  And just like allowing an animal of unknown origin to sleep in a bed with a young girl, no one bats an eyelid when Jack becomes the star player. It’s not just Steven that Jack helps out.  Tara brings her simian pal to school for show and tell, thus enabling her to gain traction with the other children, which is nothing short of vomit inducingly heart warming.

Most Valuable Primate is directed by Robert Vince, a man with a proven track record in the area of family friendly animal films.  A quick glance at his imdb and it appears that this auteur has either produced or directed every single Air Bud, Snow Buddies and Santa Paws movie ever made.  He’s also the driving force behind the MVP franchise, which, following this entry went on to include Most Vertical Primate (Monkey Skateboarding) and Most Extreme Primate (Monkey Snowboarding), be sure to thank him for those the next time you see him.The performances are just about what you’d expect to find in a monkey sports movie.  However, the hockey choreography involving the chimp is undeniably impressive, if you’re into that sort of thing, and why wouldn’t you be.

For those in search of a happy ending you’re in luck, Jack helps the Golden Nuggets win a very important trophy of some description, Steven gets a contract with a better team, and Jack gets to go live with his family. If monkey sports aren’t your thing, Mr Vince also directed a film entitled Spymate, which involves a monkey super spy, which sounds promising.