MEDIA MONDAY: A SKATEBOARDING CHIMPANZEE
There is a classic trope in sports movies wherein a team tries to do something outside the box and, upon protest, it is decided that, in fact, there is nothing in the rulebook that says it can’t happen. Well, skateboarding doesn’t really have a rulebook, at least not at its core. There are rules in competitions, but anybody can skate. Even a chimpanzee, which is what happens in the movie MVP: Most Vertical Primate.
If you are not familiar, this is the 2000 sequel to the film MVP: Most Valuable Primate. It was then followed by MXP: Most Xtreme Primate. That would have been a fitting title for the film I am talking about today, but they wanted to keep the whole “MVP” thing going, I suppose, before moving on to “MXP,” which isn’t an acronym that actually exists. Also, technically it is an initialism, not an acronym, but everybody calls things like that an acronym and I’m talking about a movie where a chimp skateboards. I’ll leave my pedantry for another time.
The film is directed by Robert Vince, who directed a bunch of the “Buddies” films that spun off from the Air Bud franchise. They are about puppies that can sort of talk and do shit like look for treasure, as opposed to playing sports. Vince did direct one Air Bud film as well, Seventh Inning Fetch, which is the baseball film in the franchise. I mention all this because he also directed all three of the film about Jack the sporting chimpanzee to date. They are as the Air Bud films, but they feature a chimp as opposed to a golden retriever.
Anyway, I should really be talking about this film at this point. In the first film, Jack is a chimpanzee who plays hockey. He’s a chimp who knows sign language and ends up escaping from a medical research facility and accidentally ends up in British Columbia. A family takes him in and he starts playing for the hockey team of the family’s teenage son Steven. At the end of the movie, the family pulls a switcheroo involving Steven’s little sister wherein she scores the game-winning goal, and Jack gets to escape.
In Most Vertical Primate, there is no Steven or the rest of his family. Jack has headed south of the border to play hockey for the Seattle Simians. Things are going well until the Simians have to play the nefarious Los Angeles Carjackers. Yes, this is a world where a professional sports team would call themselves the carjackers. I know the University of Miami calls their team the Hurricanes and Chicago’s MLS team is called the Fire, but this is still insane. Anyway, the Carjackers try and frame Jack for biting a player so Jack flees the scene.
This is when he meets a homeless boy named Ben who happens to be a skateboarder. Naturally, they become best friends. Ben, despite having no home and no support system, is primed to enter a big skateboarding competition. Things don’t go great for Ben and Jack at first. They get kicked out of the abandoned pool they’ve been living at and then Ben breaks his board. The very board he needs for the skating completion! Fortunately, Oliver “Ollie” Plant can save the day. Ben plans to swipe a board out of Oliver’s trash because apparently he throws away boards willy nilly, but Oliver catches him. Despite the fact Ben is literally taking Oliver’s trash away for him, he feels the need to explain himself, and Oliver gives him a board. Which, again, he was just throwing that shit out.
By the way, I need to mention that Oliver is played by Richard Karn. If you are of a certain age, you know Karn as Al Borland from Home Improvement. For years, he played the good-natured bearded sidekick to Tim “The Toolman” Taylor. I am disappointed that at no point during this movie does he say, “I don’t think so, Jack.” Later, he would briefly host Family Feud. He is an odd choice for an old skater, but he was hired more because he was the biggest name the film production I could get, I imagine. Anyway, Karn takes on a fatherly role for Ben, what with him being homeless. He’s also totally cool with Ben having a chimp for a best friend.
Long story short (note: It’s not a long story, as the movie is only 87 minutes), Ben gets to the competition but is afraid to compete. Jack agrees to ride with Ben (remember, he knows sign language) so Ben competes and wins. This gets him sponsored by Bob Burnquist. Yes, Bob Burnquist, one of the most-successful skateboarders ever, has a role as himself in Most Vertical Primate. I feel like this must be the low point of his career, and perhaps his life. It’s jarring to see. I’ve seen him win a ton of X Games medals, and I can only hope he at least found some amusing with acting across from a skateboarding chimpanzee. After Ben’s win, he also gets adopted by Oliver.
There is then a coda about Jack’s younger brother Louie, who evidently exists as well. He has been masquerading as Jack on the Simians but doesn’t have the same hockey skills. Fortunately, Jack returns before the big championship game to save the day for the Simians. Ben then gives Louie a skateboard as well so that he can learn to skate. So yes, this movie features two skating chimps. Although, as you may have noted, the chimps don’t do much skating in this movie. It’s more a movie about a homeless teenage boy overcoming his fear to win a skating completion and get adopted by Al Borland.
This is a truly insane movie. The idea of a skateboarding chimp is, honestly, a little less crazy than a hockey-playing chimp. Of course, I don’t imagine a chimp being able to do tricks or ride in a halfpipe. As ridiculous as this movie sounds, and it is truly insane, it’s one of those movies that is more fun to hear about than to actually watch. There are enjoyably bad movies and just kind of boring bad movies. Maybe if there was more skateboarding from Jack this would be worthwhile. However, you can only get a chimp to do so much with a skateboard. Also, I really recommend never making a movie with a chimpanzee. Chimps are incredibly dangerous animals. A golden retriever can be trained and they are generally really chill dogs. Chimps are wild animals and are just incredibly strong with vicious bites. It’s not worth it just to make a terrible movie about a skater chimp.
Nevertheless, I felt compelled by duty to inform you of the existence of MVP: Most Vertical Primate. Considering that chimps are adept tree climbers, I also feel like that title is inaccurate. There are certainly chimpanzees getting more “vertical” than Jack. Meanwhile, in the third movie Jack takes up snowboarding, and I do believe that makes him the most “Xtreme” of primates. I do hope you all take to heart the message of this film: If you befriend a hockey-playing chimp on the run and take a skateboard out of the trash you too could meet Bob Burnquist.