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Overall Rating
3.32

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 31.58%
Just Average68.42%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

3 reviews, 1 rating


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CJ7
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by Jay Seaver

"Chow Just for 7-year-olds?"
3 stars

"CJ7" was a mammoth hit in Chinese theaters, but didn't produce much of a blip in the U.S. There's just no place for it; parents don't bring their kids to movies with subtitles and the ever-shrinking audience for foreign films would rebel if it was shown dubbed. They won't make it a sleeper hit because they don't see kids' movies. So it slips through the cracks, which is unfortunate - so many kids' movies are terrible that it doesn't make sense to dismiss a good one just because people are speaking Chinese.

Dicky (Xu Jiao) is the poorest boy at his private school; the film opens with him trying to sew his sneakers back together. As so often happens, he's not just picked on by the other kids but treated like crap by most of his teachers. His construction-worker father Ti (Stephen Chow) spends every dime they have on the school, so they live in a hovel near the dump. One night, while searching that dump for a pair of sneakers for Dicky, Ti stumbles across something that came from a crashed alien spaceship. He doesn't realize it, but the toy he gives Dicky is an impossibly cute alien with strange powers ("CJ7", since the rich kid boasts of having a "CJ1" robotic dog).

Chow writes and directs as well as acting, and like his other recent films (Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle), he's using a lot of digital effects. They don't look look completely real, but they're not supposed to. Chow has always been a performer who has tended toward broad physical comedy, so it's not surprising that not only is CJ7 full of rounded surfaces and hyper-cute design, but Chow engages in a lot of Loony Tunes-style slapstick with it. CJ7 is highly malleable, pulls tools out of nowhere, and when he gets kind of beat up, cartoony springs poke through the surface. The story's got large chunks of E.T. in it, but a lot of the stuff with the creature/robot is closer to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.

Even when CJ7 is not on screen, the vibe is something of a live-action cartoon. One bizarre scene toward the beginning has Dicky and Ti competing over who can squash more cockroaches in their kitchen (between this, Ratatouille, and Enchanted, I'm wondering where the meme about vermin being family movie fodder came from). There are students at Dicky's school who shake the ground when they lumber into the scene, and his math teacher Mr. Cao (Lee Shing-Cheung) is a thoroughly hissy snob, who stops just short of pulling out a pair of tongs when circumstances force him to handle something that Dicky has touched. On the opposite side of the fence is the almost impossibly beautiful and friendly Miss Yuen (Kitty Zhang Yugi), who brings the requisite innocent sex appeal to the film.

Then there's Xu Jiao, who delivers some pricelessly funny reaction shots. She's not subtle, and in a lot of movies she'd be dismissed as a child actor trying to skate by on being cute. It works here, I think, though someone would need to have just slightly less tolerant of kids mugging for the camera for it not to. And, yes, those pronouns are right; Stephen Chow's son is played by a girl. This isn't unprecedented (it happens in animation all the time), and the audience will likely hardly notice it; it's just an odd choice.

Chow himself takes a back seat to Xu, playing Ti as generally a good dad without being anything close to saccharine. Folks expecting a lot of him may be disappointed. His work behind the scenes is pretty good for most of the film, but it does seem to come apart a bit in the end - after an hour or so of fun, CGI-enhanced slapstick, the movie decides to get serious and be heartwarming, and that leaves the ending kind of a downer on the one hand and kind of random on the other.

Kids might not mind that, though, and that is who "CJ7" was made for. The question is, just how many English-speaking kids are likely to see this movie, even if it is a lot better than much of the stuff being sent their way?

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17068&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/19/08 11:25:21
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User Comments

8/12/08 PAUL SHORTT GOOD FOR KIDS, PROBABLY FOR ALL AGES 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  07-Mar-2008 (PG)
  DVD: 12-Aug-2008

UK
  N/A

Australia
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[trailer] Trailer


Directed by
  Stephen Chow

Written by
  Stephen Chow

Cast
  Stephen Chow
  Kitty Zhang Yuqi



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