Stephen Chow, the goofball behind such computerized comedies as Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, makes grown-ups laugh like little kids. So there’s paradoxical aptness to CJ7, his sweet-natured latest, which, though targeted at preteens, may have them nodding like adults.
Like its conscious inspiration, Steven Spielberg’s E.T., Chow’s fable is the story of a supercute alien and the young boy who adopts it (a boy who happens to be played by Xu Jiao, a plucky Chinese girl). But Chow, to his credit, has more interest in Dicky’s torn-up sneakers and upward trudge from poverty than in any sci-fi high jinks; CJ7, for all its built-in toy shilling, is more about being honorable and doing one’s homework.
Is this a bad thing? Hardly. Chow, who appears as Dicky’s construction-worker dad, does get didactic at times, taking his movie, momentarily, to a very dark place. But what CJ7 ultimately reveals about global tastes is not just the triumph of Spielberg’s brand of blockbuster imagineering, but of the Hollywood director’s influence as a planter of undercurrents of class rage and incipient maturation. (The Host, an Asian spin on Spielberg’s Jaws, also upped the class warfare.) There may be nothing more subversive in CJ7 than the little guy pooping a perfectly adorable turd—an image loaded with weird realism that deftly cuts through the magic, and that seems to age the shocked Dicky by at least five years. Such is Spielberg’s real legacy, one for which he may never get the credit.
Cast and crew
Fung Min Hun
Lam Chi Chung
Yuqi Kitty Zhang