Well that’s disturbing. I was just about to write, after seeing Stephen Chow’s latest film ‘CJ7’, that the little dude that played his son Dicky is like the cutest movie kid ever. But now I’ve learned, mere seconds ago, is that the little dude is actually a little girl, thus making her not so cute anymore – at least as a girl, but still a very cute boy. What a quandary. Regardless, before knowing this I thought the ‘actor’ Jiao Xu (which is a feminine name) was a very good child actor, but now it’s quite possible that Jiao Xu is the best child ‘actress’ in the history of the earth. But that aside, what we have on our hands here is a new ‘Stephen Chow Movie’ which has meant something in Hong Kong for over a decade and a half, but now is starting to mean something over here in the United States, especially following the huge successes of ‘Kung Fu Hustle’, and ‘Shaolin Soccer’. This time Chow lends his deftly unique comic touch to a children’s story, more or less, and as expected Mr. Chow does not disappoint – too much.
Chow takes the role of Ti,
dirt poor construction worker who slaves day and night
to help pay the
tuition for his young son Dicky (Xu) who attends a very
school. Unfortunately the only thing that the destitute
Ti can afford
is the tuition as all of Dicky’s clothes and food come
from the garbage
dump which makes him the scorn of his classmates and
even his teachers
to some extent, except for the very kind and lovely Miss
Zhang Yugi), quite possibly the worlds hottest
Dicky is a good kid, but he still wants what kids want and during a visit to a department store Dicky sees one of those mechanical dogs, the CJ-1. Of course his dad can’t afford to buy it for him so he throws a hissy leading to the kid getting corporally punished and wishing all kinds of bad things on his old man. Feeling bad about disciplining his
child, Ti finds a green ball near the garbage dump that they live, though he was unaware that it was left behind by a UFO, and it gives it to the kid as a gift. Initially Dicky is somewhat unimpressed by the ball until it magically transforms into a mystical super powered space dog which he names CJ-7 to upstage his much better off classmates lousy CJ-1’s. Now the madcap hi-jinx kick into high gear as the adorable CJ-7, which looks a like a gummy bear with an afro, adjusts to life on earth with his new best friend. It’s a rocky relationship at first since Dicky’s expectations of his new pet are a touch unrealistic but the two will have some glorious adventures and in the process learn about life, love and loss.
Breezy, light, satirical, cute, comical, saccharine, contrived… these are just a few of the adjectives we could use to describe ‘CJ-7’ and they would all be accurate. There is a lot of recognizable Chow-style humor in this tale, we love paying homage to the ‘Buddhist Palm’, along with the added bonus of some very nicely integrated CGI effects for the terminally cute CJ-7. Were this America, little CJ-7 toys would be available in Burger King Kids meals across the land. As a matter of fact, if there is a criticism to be levied at ‘CJ-7’ it would be that whole thing is just ‘too’ cute. CJ-7 is adorable, Jiao Xu is adorable, Kitty Zhang Yugi is adorable, even Steven Chow covered in tattered clothes and dirt is adorable. The film is bright and colorful and fast moving and is so sweet that you may have to brush your teeth to avoid getting gingivitis after watching it. But saying that a sweet children’s film (sort of) featuring a gummy bear dog with an afro is ‘too sweet’ is hardly a legitimate criticism because the movie is a lot of fun and has a lot of heart to go along with its hearty amount of humor.
However, as cute and sweet as ‘CJ-7’ is, this is Hong Kong we’re talking about and not Hollywood and as such there are a few rather dark moments in the film that you probably wouldn’t expect had this film originated from the west. Now I’ve seen enough Asian films and even enough Chow films to know this is not unexpected. For instance Chow’s otherwise innocuous comedy ‘King of Comedy’ ends with a bloody Scarface style shootout for goodness sake, so I’m fairly accustomed to these sudden tragic turns but others may be somewhat put off by it.
Ultimately however ‘CJ-7’ is a very entertaining children’s film – somewhat. Some of the humor is low brow, some of the themes are a bit adult and there is the occasional swear word dropped here and there which may, and should give some parents pause. But overall the film still has a very good heart at its core, has a very engaging performance turned in by the young actress Jiao Xu, and tells it’s very sweet story quite effectively, just as we have come to expect from master comedian Stephen Chow.