Chow’s newest flick a near-hit

josh.snyder

Film: CJ7

Director: Stephen Chow

Producers: Stephen Chow, Po Chu Chui, Sanping Han

Writers: Stephen Chow, Vincent Kok

Starring: Stephen Chow, Jiao Xu

Runtime: 86 minutes

Rating: PG

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Director Stephen Chow has emerged as not only the best Chinese director, but one of the best action directors on the planet. His two previous films, 2001’s “Shaolin Soccer” and 2005’s “Kung fu Hustle,” are two of the best films released this past decade. Chow is able to employ a style that few have ever been able to achieve – make a live action “Looney Tunes” cartoon.

His films often inspire both laughs and amazement, so it seems strange that he’s waited until now to do a children’s film. “CJ7” is an admirable attempt that largely succeeds at bringing Chow’s humor to the genre, despite being just an average release on Blu-Ray.

Construction worker Ti (Chow) is always busy, making a worse-than-poor living and spending all the money on his son Dicky (Jiao Xu) to attend a nice school. One day, Dicky sees other kids playing with a robotic dog named CJ1. He insists Ti get him one, but Ti just doesn’t have the money. After looking through the garbage dump one night for a new pair of shoes, Ti finds a glowing green orb that he gives to Dicky. Little do they know, it’s actually an intelligent alien. The creature hatches from the orb and loyally follows Dicky around. Dicky names him CJ7, and the two become inseparable. As a result, Dicky gets sidetracked from his studies, and Ti wonders if he can afford to keep him in school.

Kid’s films need to have concise stories, and “CJ7” certainly has that. There is a good message about not taking things for granted, and it’s told in a manner that children can easily relate to.

Unfortunately, the film uses many of Chow’s previous themes, such as the juxtaposition of poverty and high class society. If there’s anyone that can pull this off it’s Chow, but he’s done it in his last two films.

Another aspect that Chow is known for are his characters. Again, he falls back on his now standard clichés. That’s not to say that these characters aren’t likeable — you still can’t help but feel for Ti as he spends his life working just to send Dicky to a good school. But the fact still stands that they’re nothing new.

And then there’s the title character, CJ7, who is criminally underused. This adorable little space alien had the potential to be an even cuter, iconic character than this year’s “Wall-E,” but Chow doesn’t utilize him properly. He’s only in a handful of scenes and is more of a means to Dicky’s end as opposed to being a living, breathing character.

Since Blu-Ray is hitting its stride, films that once looked amazing are beginning to look like the norm. “CJ7” is a perfect example of this. It would be safe to assume that the Blu-Ray looks fantastic when compared to its DVD counterpart; but compared to other Blu-Rays, it looks average. There’s the occasional scratch or flaw in the film, which stands out even more given the high-definition quality.

At the same time, colors pop out more in the brighter, happier scenes, while washed out grays in darker, depressing scenes really help paint a bleak picture.

As for extras, this disc is pretty standard fare. There’s a “making of” feature that goes over the general production details. There’s also an interesting feature where Chow is interviewed about why he wanted to make a kids’ film and finally a short segment that showed how they filmed scenes with the completely CGI CJ7. Beyond that, there’s nothing of interest. There are a few short segments for kids, one of which titled “how to de-bully a bully,” but they’re all pretty much worthless.

Chow wanted to prove he could make a kids’ film, and he did. The problem is, he made a kids’ film in the style of a Stephen Chow film. “CJ7” is still really entertaining and really sad in some parts, but it feels like his previous works. It’s definitely worth a rental, but only worth a purchase if you are a huge Chow fan.