Friday October 20, 2000
Word has leaked all over my neighborhood of what I do for a living.Even the animals at the zoo are on to me now. It's a problem.
"Do you realize," the senior baboon in the ape house chided me this past summer, "how long it's been since there's been decent roles for monkeys in movies?"
I start making a faint case for "George of the Jungle," but the baboon would have none of it. "That was some twit in a monkey suit," he snorted.
"So was King Kong," I said, but I knew that wouldn't shut him up.
"Cheetah," the baboon sighed. "Now there was a true star. Doesn't anyone in Hollywood respect tradition?"
It was a waste of time to argue. Indeed, the whole conversation was a waste of time, and the only reason I bother remembering it now is because "MVP: Most Valuable Primate" made me think that maybe--just maybe--we've all missed real apes in movies more than we'd realized.
The title character is, ostensibly, a real chimpanzee named Jack (played, according to the movie's credits, by three chimps named Bernie, Mac and Louie), who has been living the plush life as the subject of a college behavioral experiment.
When the experiment suddenly ends, the school wants to ship Jack, who is by now something of a mental marvel, to a biological testing center. Instead, a "friendly janitor" packs up Jack and sends him on a train back to his nature preserve in Northern California.
Wouldn't you know? Jack sleeps past his stop and ends up way up in snowy northern British Columbia, where the Nelson Nuggets, a minor-league hockey team, are about to begin another season of futility.
So what does one have to do with another? The movie takes a painfully long time to get to that answer, but what happens is that Tara (Jamie Renee Smith), a young deaf girl, finds Jack in the woods. Tara and her hockey-playing brother Steven (Kevin Zegers) discover Jack has a way with the skates and stick, and somehow he's allowed to play with the Nuggets, who, of course, begin beating back everyone in Jack's path.
Not even my baboon friend would agree that the world was desperate for an amalgam of "Mystery, Alaska" and "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial." Still, pacing aside, "MVP" is a pleasant way for 5- to 11-year-olds to pass the time and relatively painless for anyone older to endure. The humor may be as low and broad as King Kong's ankles, but if it aimed any higher it would be embarrassing to anyone, regardless of their place on the evolutionary food chain.
MVP: Most Valuable Primate, 2000. PG, for some mild language. A Keystone Family Pictures presentation, released by Keystone. Director Robert Vince. Producer Ian Fodie. Executive producers Robert Vince, Michael Strange, Anne Vince. Screenplay by Anne Vince & Robert Vince. Cinematographer Glenn Winter. Editor Kelly Herron. Costume designer Cali Newcomen. Music Brahm Wenger. Art director Liz Shelton. Set decorator James Willcock. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. Bernie, Mac, Louie as Jack. Kevin Zegers as Steven Westover. Jamie Renee Smith as Tara Westover. Oliver Muirhead as Dr. Peabody.