The overt story of CJ7 is similar to many sci-fi movies of days past, when an alien meets a boy and fantastic hi-jinks ensue. Chow's unique vision, that makes this more than just another cute alien movie, is to set the story in China with a protagonist that is extremely poor and principled. The alien is like the lovechild of Furbee and E.T., extremely high on the "kawaii" quotient, but with a pretty profound purpose that is uncovered as the story unfolds. Giving away the story would be wrong, so all we can say is that there is much more than meets the eye when it comes to CJ7.
There's miles of subtext in CJ7 as a movie. Conditions of poverty are featured in contrast to the extreme wealth that many Chinese have found through exposure to and investment from global markets. The story revolves around a boy and his father, trying to live their lives together with very different motives. The boy, like most, is concerned initially with how he fits into the world and is navigating tricky social and economic ladders with more than a little difficulty. The father is working in a hard-labor job to erase as many socioeconomic barriers as possible for his boy. When CJ7 arrives in the midst of this, the boy seizes on the opportunity to change his life. The changes that actually happen are not what the boy planned, with both comic and tragic implications. The commentary on how striving for materialism may lead to missing out on much of what makes life worth living is not lost in CJ7. Values, ethics, and principles are all the boy and his father have to stand by in their otherwise sad situation. CJ7 ends up being a very touching movie glued together with emotional and action-packed sequences. In short, a perfect family movie.
The DVD is packed with extras. Commentary can be turned on in additional English language track, and there is a fully dubbed version of the film. The quality of the dub is probably my least favorite thing about CJ7, so watch the Chinese version first. There is an interactive DVD game that made absolutely no sense, but no need to belabor that... "The Story of CJ7" feature is a nice look at how the film was made, and there's a similar focus in the CJ7 TV Special. "Anatomy of a Scene" shows how an especially awesome piece of the movie came together from concept to execution. There are some relatively worthless extras that connect with themes from CJ7, "How to Bully a Bully" and "How to Make a Lollipop" that we could have done without. A full trailer and an extended montage of scenes from the film with profiles of major characters rounds out the entire section of special features.
No Stephen Chow fan will want to miss this one and it may be the introduction that non-fans have to this great director through their kids. Everything from casting, filming, story, and music is well done; it's light entertainment, but we'd always rather have something entertain us for a little while than be a long, stupendous bore. Hats off to Chow and CJ7 for a great piece of family-friendly film fun.