Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Stephen Chow, Jiao
Xu, Shing-Cheung Lee, Kitty Zhang Yugi
Director: Stephen Chow
Audio: Dolby TrueHD
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 88 Minutes
Release Date: August 12, 2008
Stephen Chow, who made the insanely wacky international hits Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, decided to make his next movie his greatest challenge to date. It would be a childrenís film.
CJ7 is that movie, and darned if Mr. Chow didnít successfully bring about a charming family comedy filled with laughter, tears, and the cutest little alien pooch this side of an Animal Planet dog show. Not to mention a fantastic cast of young kids that Chow doesnít seem to have any trouble with.
He plays Ti, a poor father struggling in a menial job and living in a slovenly, tiny room thatís in a building that looks half demolished. All his meager earnings go to putting his little son Dickie (Xu) in a private school so that his boy wonít have to grow up to live in the same kind of poverty as he is.
Itís not easy being the only poor kid in school. A group of bullies led by a little snoot with Gordon Gekko written all over him constantly torment him and others, including a girl with a small voice but built like a pro wrestler. Even his teacher (Lee), a germophobic hard-nose, disapproves. Only a pretty kindly teacher (Yugi) seems to take much interest.
When another kid gets a robotic dog called a CJ1, Dickie naturally wants one, too. But money doesnít allow it, so Ti visits the local junkyard, where he finds a strange green ball with an antenna, and somehow fails to notice the UFO taking off behind him.
He gives it to Dickie, who soon discovers the ball houses a surprise: a cute, fuzzy alien that he nicknames the CJ7 (to show the other kids how much more advanced it is). He dreams that his new little friend has magical powers and can help him in school and in sports. In reality, all he seems able to do is poop a lot, but then, all is not what it seems.
There are moments that will remind you that youíre watching a Stephen Chow film, including a Looney Toons styled fight that only he could pull off. But what was surprising was the tremendous amount of heart in the picture. There are moments of sadness that drive home a moral of being careful what you wish for.
In a sense, itís a little of E.T. mixed with Pokemon and maybe a touch of Bambi. Not to worryÖit all works out in the end, and parents will be delighted by the experience, while their little ones may sit wide-eyed and learn a valuable lesson or two.
Itís a wacky, weird, wonderful combination that lets Stephen Chow spread out his talent into new areas. Films that can make you laugh, cry and learn all in the course of an hour and a half are rare indeed, and CJ7 is the kind of movie that could have easily not worked, but thanks to Chow, some great kids, and an endearing new CGI creation, the picture may just have carved out a unique niche for itself in the genre of family entertainment.
BONUS TRIVIA: Jiao Xu, who plays Dickie, is actually a little girl!
This Blu-ray offering is high quality. Like many Asian films, you can see a bit of debris here and there on the print, but the anamorphic transfer renders well, with plenty of detail, color and contrast.
I didnít even know til after I watched it, but thereís an English track as well as the Mandarin. I tend to prefer the original language when watching a foreign film, and the Dolby TrueHD track served the craziness well. The dynamic range is fair, and the subwoofer is employed minimally, but there are moments that open up the back stage and keep you centered in the crazy action.
There is an entertaining commentary by Stephen Chow and cast members, which is in Chinese, but offers English subtitles. There is also a behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the film, plus a trailer.
Other features seemed more aimed at the kiddies, which is entirely appropriate. Thereís a very simple game that lets you help CJ7 get home, plus looks on how to make a prop lollipop and how to handle a bully.
CJ7 is a warm, fuzzy ball of delight from top to bottom. Your child will probably enjoy this lovely Blu-ray offering as much as you will.