It is safe to say that no one makes movies quite like Hong Kong’s Stephen Chow. Chow’s most relevant hit, 2004’s Kung Fu Hustle [review], gained notoriety based completely on the fact that it was, pound-for-pound, the craziest action film to come along in years. His follow up is none other than CJ7, a tale of a poor little Hong Kong schoolboy who befriends a fur ball from outer space. This is a kid-friendly fantasy comedy that goes for big laughs.
Ti works as a construction worker in Hong Kong and spends his nights scouring around in garbage piles for things he can fix for his son Dicky. It’s under one particular heap of broken tv’s that Ti finds a UFO that quickly zooms away after expelling a little green ball with a small circle on the top. After a few tosses and some expected fidgeting with the small circle, the ball morphs into a little creature in front of Dicky’s eyes, a furry alien-puppy that Dicky imagines will be able to create technological advances in test cheating, and form bionic footwear that would allow Dicky to one-up his schoolmates. As it ends up, CJ7 can only repair objects: a busted electrical fan, a rotted apple, and a few soured relationships.
Filmed in the seaport town of Ningbo in Zhejiang Province, CJ7 has an airy widescreen look that counters the privations of Ti and Dicky’s surroundings. I can’t recall the last time I’d seen such a wildly uneven offering from the excellent Stephen Chow as CJ7. It was such a long time coming that I may have taken its shortcomings personally, but there are real issues with the film. I was flattened to find out that Xu is not a captivating 8-year-old boy but, as it happens, a captivating 8-year-old girl. Child actors in drag: Do kids fables get any more subversive, or surprising, than this?
Chow’s films represent a special category. Their humor is hit-and-miss, their female characters are always woefully underwritten, and any value this film tries to uphold will just as readily be abandoned for a cheap laugh. You always want to like a critter from space comedy but sometimes you just can’t. CJ7 is one of those films. I hope Chow’s next movie redeems himself in my mind and after watching this movie I am willing to give him another shot.