CJ7 (PG) **½

Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

By Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

The title CJ7 refers to a toy a construction worker named Ti (Stephen Chow) finds in the trash and brings home to his 9-year-old son Dicky (played by Xu Jiao, actually a little girl sporting a short haircut).

When Dicky holds the plaything in his hands, it transforms into a dog-like creature with saucer-sized eyes, a rubbery green body and a host of surprising powers. CJ7, which is Chow’s homage to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, turns out to be an alien from outer space who comes in surprisingly useful when dealing with school bullies or passing pop quizzes at school.

Unlike E.T., though, the relationship between a boy and his alien visitor isn’t always harmonious. Chow, whose films often display a decidedly childlike sense of humor (Shaolin Soccer, Kung-Fu Hustle) without necessarily being meant for kids, is working squarely in the family-film arena this time, but that doesn’t mean anyone will ever confuse CJ7 for a Disney film.

There are cheesy special effects and even cheesier gags, and the schmaltz eventually piles on neck-deep. But if CJ7 sometimes has the makeshift feel of a throwaway project, it still proves that Chow doesn’t dial down his creative daring just because he’s making one for the children.

Cast: Xu Jiao, Stephen Chow, Kitty Zhang, Lee Sheung Ching, Fun Min Hun

Director: Stephen Chow

Screenwriters: Stephen Chow, Vincent Kok, Tsang Kan Cheong

Producers: Stephen Chow, Chui Po Chi, Han San Ping

A Sony Pictures Classics release. Running time: 85 minutes. In Cantonese with English subtitles.


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