Consider Stephen Chow the true spiritual heir of Jerry Lewis, and consider CJ7 Chow’s The Family Jewels. Like Lewis’s 1965 film, Chow’s comic fantasy is a sop to kiddie sentimentality that barely skirts rancid cutesiness by sheer virtue of its strange details, such as the casting of a girl (charming newcomer Xu Jiao) as its young protagonist, a slum-dwelling boy named Dickie. Able to attend a posh school thanks to his widowed father Li’s (Chow) slaving at a construction site, Dicky is picked on by teachers and bullies alike, mocked by his tattered shoes, sullied uniform, and lack of cool toys. When his father can’t afford the rich kids’ latest gotta-have-it plaything (a robot pooch named “CJ1”), he has to do with a green ball found in the garbage dump. It’s not long, however, before the seemingly prosaic replacement sprouts rubbery legs and the purring head of a Pokemon character—a visitor left behind by an alien spaceship, endowed with peculiar powers and dubbed “CJ7” by its delighted new owner. Following on the heels of Chow’s kinetic breakout international hit Kung Fu Hustle, the E.T.-flavored CJ7 is a surprisingly tepid confection, awkwardly perched between the Hong Kong auteur’s trademark go-for-broke zaniness and a penchant for fulsome, heartstring-yanking bathos. The mix never gels, yet it’s this dissonant collision of moods—one moment Dicky is receiving a salvo of alien poo to the face, the next he’s curling into a fetal position after learning of his father’s accident—that gives the movie its unique tone, setting it apart from the anonymous seamlessness of most CGI-padded children’s films. CJ7 may be an off-day for Chow, but the film’s distinctive weirdness proves that he isn’t about to take over the Spy Kids series any time soon.
- Sony Pictures Classics
- 88 min
- Stephen Chow
- Stephen Chow
- Stephen Chow, Xu Jiao, Yugi Kitty Zhang, Lee Shing-Cheung, Lam Chi Chung, Fung Min Hun
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