Seemingly too close to ET for comfort, Stephen Chow’s film, CJ7, is bigger, better, smarter and more interesting than anything you might expect. CJSF volunteer, Irma Arkus reviews…
Whereas Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer have marked Chow as an international superstar, the announced CJ7 seemed like a calculated way to establish himself as an Asian Spielberg. However, instead of mere pandering to sympathetic audience, the regurgitated storyline, of a single father and his boy living in poverty until an adorable alien creature changes everything, takes a turn and a twist toward the unexpected.
Chow plays a single father who supports himself and his son Dicky, by working on construction sites. He builds what he cannot afford. He takes only what people throw away. The job does not pay much, so the food is scarce, consisting mainly of rice and rotten apples, as most money goes to an expensive private school Dicky attends. They share a bed in a humble, one-room closet-like space, filled with roaches…and love.
Their bond, moral codes and standards seem to clash against the wanton of the new generation obsessed with high-tech toys and things you can buy. Dicky’s dad desires to instill values dismissed by all around them. Dicky’s classmates are all about materialism, striving for celebrity and exclusivity status. These are children of capitalism and they consist of bullies and princesses.
Chow’s signature style of slapstick comedy, meets comic-book live action, is added to a lively mix of poop jokes, and gross-out moments. And the endearing exchanges, like the much ballyhooed roach-smack competition, are a visual candy and a mental tickle. Chow resists making mediocre schlock and instead delivers a hot piece of social commentary in a changing landscape of Asia.
It is this clash between values of new and old, discarded and adopted, maybe sometimes even recycled that offers an insight into changing world of Asian youth. It is also what marks Chow as a director that is already an Asian Spielberg, more magical and crazy cool than we ever suspected.