- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © Sony Pictures Classics
Reviewed by David Medsker
f one were to pitch “CJ7” to a studio exec, odds are the description would boil down to “Chinese ‘E.T.’.” And while that is technically true, we would suggest adding four more words: “Directed by Tex Avery.” Writer/director/star Stephen Chow, you see, is a Looney Tunes character come to life; his movies aren’t just cartoonish, they’re cuckoo-for-Cocoa-Puffs crazy, but in the most entertaining way imaginable. “CJ7” isn’t as slap-happy as Chow’s previous effort, “Kung Fu Hustle,” but that’s actually a good thing. In fact, when it attempts to venture into “Kung Fu” territory, the movie nearly goes off the rails.
The movie stars Chow as Ti, a dirt-poor construction worker who pours all of his money into an elite private school so his son Dicky (Xu Jiao, who’s actually a girl) can get a proper education and live a better life. During one of Ti’s late-night dumpster diving expeditions (Dicky needed new shoes), Ti finds a rubbery object that unbeknownst to him was left behind by an alien spaceship, and brings it home. After tinkering with it, Dicky realizes that the object is a protective shell, and inside the shell is an alien dog. Dicky names the dog CJ7 in an attempt to one-up a rich classmate who owns a robotic dog named CJ1 (and bullies Dicky constantly). Once CJ7 reveals its remarkable talent, Dicky begins to envision all of the ways that CJ7 can make his life better, but things do not at all go as planned.
The second act of “CJ7” could have killed the movie stone dead. It’s like watching an altar boy drown a sack full of kittens. How could such evil come from such a good heart? Yes, human nature is complicated like that, but that doesn’t make it any less painful to watch the things that Dicky does to this alien dog. On top of this is a series of bathroom jokes that felt completely out of place. There is too much creativity for this movie to have any room for a poop joke. Or three.
Thankfully the movie rights the ship in the third act, bringing back the goofy sweetness and adding a touch of tragedy (remember, we said “Chinese ‘E.T.’”). Wisely, Chow puts the focus not on himself but on the children, which is as it should be. Jiao is quite convincing as a boy (except when she screams), and Dicky’s bully classmate, with the help of some well-chosen eyeware, steals the movie from everyone.
Chow’s movies are not for everyone, and they’re an even harder sell when you’re dealing with an alien dog that peppers its “owner” with feces like it’s a Gatlin gun. What Chow’s movies lack in finesse, however, they make up for with raw enthusiasm, and “CJ7” is definitely enthusiastic. Ridiculous and silly, but enthusiastic.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
The HD release of “CJ7” is a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s nice to see that Sony has actually included some extras on an otherwise obscure title, but on the other hand, some of them just seem utterly pointless. This includes featurettes on “How to Bully a Bully” and “How to Make a Lollipop,” as well as an interactive game that lasts – no joke – about 10 seconds. Of course, there are others extras worth checking out, including a cast and crew audio commentary led by director Stephen Chow, two production featurettes (“The Story of CJ7” and “The Making of CJ7”), and an in-depth look at the filming of the infamous bathroom sequence ("Anatomy of a Scene").