Director : Stephen Chow
Screenplay : Stephen Chow & Vincent Kok & Tsang Kan Cheong & Sandy Shaw Lai King & Fung Chih Chiang & Lam Fung
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 2008
Stars : Stephen Chow (Ti), Jiao Xu (Dicky), Kitty Zhang Yuqi (Miss Yuen), Shing-Cheung Lee (Mr. Cao), Min Hun Fung (P.E. Teacher), Chi Chung Lam (The Boss)
Given that his films have increasing become like live-action cartoons, it should come as little surprise that Hong Kong comedy/action auteur Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle) has finally made an out-and-out children’s film. CJ7 is pretty much exactly like what you might imagine it would be: The humor is goofy, the plot virtually nonsensical at times, the violence is slapstick to the point of defying physics, and the overall tone is one of giddy childlike wonder and bemusement. And, ridiculous as it is, the movie somehow works if you give in to it.
The story concerns a widowed father named Ti (Stephen Chow) and his elementary-age son, Dicky (Jiao Xu, who is actually a girl). Ti and Dicky are dirt-poor. How poor? They live in a single room in a dilapidated building and entertain themselves at night by smashing roaches. Ti works at a construction site both day and night and uses virtually everything he earns to send Dicky to an expensive private school so that he can avoid his uneducated father’s fate. For his part, Dicky is a wonderful child, so accepting of their poverty that, during school when asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he asserts that he wants to be a “poor person” because, as his father repeatedly tells him, as long as he has integrity, doesn’t lie, doesn’t fight, and doesn’t steal, people will respect him regardless of his socioeconomic status. That, in a nutshell, is the film’s moral message, although Chow is not so pie-in-the-sky as to think integrity is easy to maintain.
When Dicky decides that he wants the latest high-tech toy, a robotic dog called CJ1 that his wealthy and snobbish classmates like to show off at school, Ti does the only thing he can: He heads to the dump hoping to find a suitable alternative. What he ends up finding is an extraterrestrial dog that he and Dicky both think is a toy. (Actually, it’s never entirely clear whether this thing is a living creature or a toy, given that springs burst out of its head when it is overtaxed, although there is one weird animated scene that suggests it was created by none other than E.T.) With its puffball head atop a green gummy-bear body, the alien dog is as strange as it is irresistibly cute, and Dicky christens it CJ7 to emphasize how much better it is than the other kids’ robotic dogs. Of course, because it’s viewed as a toy, poor CJ7 endures no end of comical abuse, the funniest being when Ti himself starts squeezing it like a stress ball. The fact that it doesn’t run away at the first opportunity suggests that it has been endowed with both infinite patience and forgiveness.
As with Chow’s other films, CJ7 is rather skimpy on plot and heavy on whacked-out tangents and eccentric characters. Chow loves exaggeration, and CJ7 is loaded with it, from Dicky’s obsessive-compulsive, nose-picking teaching (Shing-Cheung Lee), to Ti’s constantly screaming foreman (Chi Chung Lam). Bullies at school are like a pint-sized mafia, complete with hired muscle, and Chow has great fun with developmental discrepancies between boys and girls during preadolescence by introducing a gargantuan girl who has a crush on poor little Dicky. However, the movie reaches its fever pitch during an extended dream sequence in which Dicky imagines that CJ7 solves all of his problems by constructing fanciful gadgets like a pair of glasses that allow him to cheat on an exam and a pair of super-shoes that allow him to leap hundreds of feet in the air and propel him through a swimming pool with jets. Alas, it turns out that CJ7 does none of these things, although he does have one secret ability that becomes crucial late in the story and leads to some rather shameless tear-jerking. Waterworks aside, CJ7 is best viewed with good humor and an understanding that it is essentially Chow’s bid to prove that he is, indeed, just a big kid.
|Subtitles||English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Indonesian|
|Distributor||Sony Pictures Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||August 12, 2008|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|For the most part, the high-definition transfer looks extremely good. The image is clean, sharp and well-detailed (it allows you to truly appreciate how much work goes into computer-animating an expressive creature with a fuzzy head), with excellent color saturation and strong, dark black levels. There are a number of audio options, but I would recommend sticking with the default Mandarin Chinese since the English dub is expectedly silly-sounding and awkward. The Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 surround mix isn’t particularly expansive except during certain sequences (e.g., the construction site scenes), but it is nicely balanced and does the job.|
|Although CJ7 is a movie aimed at kids, most of the supplements will be of interest to an older crowd (although the majority of them are in standard definition). The screen-specific audio commentary features writer/director/star Stephen Chow and several of his cowriters and cast members. They seem to be having a good time talking about the movie and joking. The only read downside is that, since they’re all speaking in Chinese, it’s very easy to lose track of who’s speaking. “The Story of CJ7” (12 min.) is a concise behind-the-scenes featurette that includes interviews with Chow and producer/cowriter Vincent Kok. The international TV special “The Making of CJ7” (22 min.) is a more in-depth look at the film’s production with a particular emphasis on the special effects used to create CJ7. It includes interviews with Chow, Kok, and visual effects supervisor Eddy Wong. “Anatomy of a Scene” (7 min.) is a short, but detailed look at the filming and special effects in the bathroom scene. The rest of the supplements are clearly aimed at the under-10 crowd. “How to Bully a Bully” is a 4-minute featurette that offers some fairly lousy advice about how to “de-bullify” a bully; “Make Your Own Giant Lollipop” is a 2-minute how-to on making a prop lollipop out of modeling clay; “CJ7 Profiles” is a 7-minute overview of the major characters; and the “CJ7 Mission Control Game” is a truly lame game in which you try to shoot a rocketship into space.|
Copyright ©2008 James Kendrick
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