Making the Grades
Robert Vince produced a movie a few years back called Air Bud featuring a golden retriever that could shoot hoops as well as any inner-city black lab. One of his working titles for that film was MVP: Most Valuable Pooch, and while the moniker never stuck to the dog, Robert must have loved the title.
I can imagine the brainstorming... Let's see... another animal movie with a creature starting with P... A waterpolo piranha? A golfing penguin? A sumo-wrestling porcupine? Nope. All of those would be difficult to train, and that porcupine would have the Screen Actors Guild on pins and needles. If only monkey started with P...
Chalk the results up to creative evolution.
P stands for primate and in this case a chimp known as Jack. He sleeps in a bed and eats cereal in his own kitchen each morning. His "home" is located in the front area of a California university lecture theater where at precisely 9 a.m. each day Jack's life becomes center stage. The subject of a primate intelligence study, Jack is smart enough to speak sign language, take out the trash, and put up a good game of checkers.
Ironically, Science Dean Peabody (Oliver Muirhead) demonstrates a serious lack of gray matter--if brains were bananas, he wouldn't have enough to give Jack a snack. After the unexpected death of the professor who was heading Jack's program, Peabody decides to sell him off to another university doing hepatitis research. Fortunately Jack's mentally challenged caretaker Darren (Russell Ferrier) recognizes a talking monkey who can make coffee deserves a better retirement. Stealing Jack with the intent of returning him to the nature reserve where his family lives, Darren puts Jack on a train headed north and tells him to get off in his hometown of El Simian. Unfortunately Jack's a heavy sleeper.
Strangely, this train hits San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, and then...Nelson B.C., a little community buried in the Canadian Rockies. (That's like having an express from Chicago to Seattle with an end stop in Walla Walla.) Of course, Jack awakens at the end of the line, where he will ultimately meet our heroes--hearing impaired pre-teen Tara Westover (Jamie Ren0xE9e Smith) and her hockey loving older brother Steven (Kevin Zegers).
Having just moved from the Golden State with their parents, both kids are having a hard time fitting in. Tara feels ostracized at school, while Steven is discouraged with the local rag tag team that doesn't take hockey seriously. Enter Jack, who becomes Tara's sign language buddy and, amazingly, learns to skate and shoot slapshots that rip through hockey nets.
A product of Keystone Entertainment, a company Vince co-owns with his wife Anne, I applaud the couple's desire to create family movies. While MVP falls back on the usual sports movie themes and the idea of creating comedy with a chimp is hardly new, there was no "bathroom" humor, only three mild profanities, and some brawling hockey violence that Steven determines to help his team overcome.
Beside the growth in Steven's character, his sister discovers she was more concerned about her disability than her friends were, providing a thoughtful insight. While adults may choose to finish dinner dishes before the credits roll, young children will likely find some laughs in watching the sped up footage of Jack skating and all the monkey shines in between.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about MVP: Most Valuable Primate.
Not everyone in Tara’s situation is rescued by a cute chimp that helps them make friends at school. Without Jack, what could Tara have done to feel more accepted?