Netflix for Kids is VODzilla.co’s monthly column that sends a grown man without kids into the barrel of the streaming service’s kids catalogue and searches for morsels of goodness at the bottom. Today, our childless adult writer tackles MVP 2: Most Vertical Primate.
On the latest episode of our podcast, The VOD Pod, the challenge was set to suggest a double-bill with War for the Planet of the Apes. While the contributors (including this shamelessly plugging writer) suggested Project Nim and Attack the Block, one possible alternative would be this particular nugget of chimp faeces that Netflix is threatening to fling at your kids. Like Matt Reeves’ critically acclaimed blockbuster, MVP 2: Most Vertical Primate asks you to sympathise with a simian protagonist that displays human characteristics. Where War’s lead character, Caesar, showed an ability to talk and ride horses, Jack from MVP 2 can play ice hockey and skateboard.
MVP 2 is the third in a trilogy of films (the third is MXP: Most Xtreme Primate) with the kind of banal animals-doing-human-things plot that NFK specialises in. There are entire film studios out there dedicated to these films, where animals are put into wacky, zany situations (see our previous NFK on the unbearable Pup Star). Don’t worry if you haven’t seen MVP before diving into the sequel; plot is meaningless, this is just yet another story of an animal doing sport. (The popular basketball dog film Air Bud was originally going to be MVP: Most Valuable Pooch, but they saved this peach of a title for a film about a chimpanzee playing ice hockey.)
MVP 2 was made in 2001, when skating was at is pop-culture peak. Avril Lavigne hadn’t single-handedly ruined the subculture with her song Sk8er Boi yet and everyone was still wearing bike chains from the waist of their baggy jeans. This was the year where Tony Hawk Pro-Skater 2 was released and thousands of teenagers suddenly found the soundtrack to their adolescence. MVP 2 is clearly trying to cash in on the skating phenomenon; THPS regular Bob Burnquist even turns up at the end, as the judge of the skating competition (spoiler warning: the protagonist wins).
Only, MVP 2 is so sluggish that it takes over 40 minutes before Jack, our chimpanzee hero, even starts skateboarding. The first part of the film is still obsessed with his ice hockey skills – it’s only after he is accused of biting another player that he runs away and befriends the orphan, Ben, who teaches him to skate. It’s a lethargic, dull film that doesn’t even really live up to its ridiculous premise. The skating scenes aren’t especially impressive, more interested in framing the tricks in front of some sweet product placement. Even then, the triumphant finale returns us to the ice hockey rink. This primate is rarely vertical.
The worst thing about it all is that it is immensely hard to shake the discomfort of seeing the chimpanzee performers walk around in human clothing. However well the on-set primates were treated, there’s rarely justification for dressing a chimp up in ice hockey gear or a leather jacket. One wonders what the trainers had to do in order to get the furry protagonists to perform for the camera. Admittedly, sometimes the film is so loosely edited that it feels as though they have simply filmed the apes doing what they’d normally be doing anyway. But it still feels somehow wrong.
Sadly, the onslaught of animals-in-lead-roles continues in a market of films that never make it to cinema screens in the UK. Be warned, parents with Netflix: at any moment, your kid could stumble across Russell Madness, Pup Star or Air Buddies and try to watch it. Remain vigilant and do not let this happen to them.
MVP: Most Vertical Primate is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.