Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Director Stephen Chow delivers a WOW of a movie and rockets audiences to movie heaven with CJ7!

Monday, March 10, 2008 -- By Wow Jones

Director Stephen Chow delivers a WOW of a movie and rockets audiences to movie heaven with CJ7!

A close-up of hands are the first thing we see in Stephen Chow’s new movie CJ7. Calloused, dingy, leathery and weather-beaten - - some would say that those hands are evidence of someone who “works hard for a living.” These hands are involved in the tender act of sewing-up the toe point of a tattered pair of cast-aside shoes. It’s this act, along with the subsequent shot of Mercedes Benz and Rolls Royce hood ornaments atop cars that are shown dropping off rich-kids at an elite private school that poetically announces Stephen Chow’s awareness of the worlds he’s chronicling. For those folks unfamiliar with Stephen Chow’s movies, these shots merely hint at the continued astonishment this masterpiece affords. How could they know that Stephen Chow (whose hands are the hands which open the movie) would craft and present such a gift to audiences worldwide?

As in movies filled with feeling like Robert DeNiro’s A Bronx Tale and Chen Kaige’s Together, Stephen Chow dramatizes, through the role of a poor construction worker, the task of imparting values like character and integrity to his son Dicky (Xu Jiao). As the shot at a construction-worksite that introduces Stephen Chow illustrates, it’s a task that’s both daunting and dizzying. While it may initially appear that CJ7 will be a dour treatment of a serious drama, Stephen Chow quickly introduces the verve that distinguishes CJ7 from the DeNiro and Kaige movie comparisons.

In response to Dicky being taunted by rich classmates at school for not having the latest toy (a CJ1 robot),

Stephen Chow (with his salt-and-pepper colored hair) brings home a discarded toy that he finds at the garbage dump he frequents and gives it to his son. Turns out that this toy is an alien from another planet, and this toy becomes the perfect pet-toy-gift -- one that’s capable of limitless love and companionship. As in movies like Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant and Steven Spielberg’s E.T., CJ7 also examines the special relationship between a child and his toy/pet—humorously evoking the electric thrill of having a new friend. When this pet-toy (whom Dicky names CJ7) is brought to school, it also presents an opportunity for Dicky to get schoolyard-style redemption. Rapturous mayhem ensues and surprises abound.

In CJ7 Stephen Chow generously surrenders the spotlight to the child performers in the cast – particularly when he plays straight-man to son Dicky, played by actress Xu Jiao in a gut-bustingly funny, unrestrained and nimble debut (!!!) performance. I also suspect that Xu Jiao isn’t the only performer in CJ7 engaging in a bit gender-bending casting. In any event, upon the hint that this toy is not what it appears to be, Dicky’s scream (and his raised elbows bent, hands-up, semi-Alfred E Neuman ‘What Me Worry?’ gesture) to his dad is at once filled with fear, anxiety and yes, excitement.

In another scene, Dicky stomps away from his discarded pet-toy and is at first disappointed and angry. Then, as the extent of his lapse in judgement registers, he’s ashamed, regretful and contrite. Folks, you don’t often see this level of accomplished acting.

But it’s in Stephen Chow’s staging of detailed slapstick where his verve is unmistakably evident. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice (and chortle at) the subtle touch of a Physical Education teacher whose bit of business consists of constantly pulling up the waistband of his shorts to his sternum. Nor will sensitive viewers miss a child being tossed the length of a football field leaving skid marks in his wake. Whether it’s a back-alley brawl between CJ7 and a scruffy dog, a mishap at the construction site where Stephen Chow works, or a miracle at a soccer field, the action here is kinetic, inventive, funny and, most importantly, tied to emotion and a compelling narrative.

With the movie’s twists and turns, my seat got quite a workout when I alternately doubled over in laughter and leaned back as I gasped in astonishment. Chuck Jones is smiling down from heaven knowing this movie is in the world. I’d also guess that fellow comic hyphenate Tyler Perry is psychically sending a high-five in approval and appreciation. Gag-by-gag, stunt-by-stunt, and miracle-by-miracle, Director Stephen Chow delivers a WOW of a movie-gift to the world and rockets worldwide audiences to movie heaven with CJ7!

"Gag-by-gag, stunt-by-stunt, and miracle-by-miracle, Director
Stephen Chow delivers a WOW of a movie-gift to the world and rockets worldwide audiences to movie heaven with CJ7!" -- Wow Jones of The Wow Jones Report

Well, the packed, noon Times Square crowd that I saw the movie with on Sunday sure thought so.

-- Wow Jones

“CJ7” is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested).

CJ7 Opened on Friday in New York and Los Angeles.

Directed by Stephen Chow

Written (in Cantonese, with English subtitles) by Mr. Chow, Vincent Kok, Tsang Kan Cheong, Sandy Shaw Lai-King, Fung Chih Chiang and Lam Fung;

Director of Photography: Poon Hang Sang

Editor: Angie Lam

Music: Raymond Wong

Production Designer: Oliver Wong

Action Choreography: Ku Huen Chiu and Yuen Shun Yi;

Producers: Mr. Chow, Chui Po Chu, Han San Ping and Mr. Kok;

Released by Sony Pictures Classics.

Running time: 1 hour 26 minutes.

WITH: Xu Jiao (Dicky Chow), Stephen Chow (Ti), Kitty Zhang (Miss Yuen), Lee Sheung Ching (Mr. Cao), Fun Min Hun (P.E. Teacher), Huang Lei (Johnny) and Lam Tze Chung (Boss).

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