(Cheung Gong 7 Hou)
CJ7 was Chows follow-up to the enormous success of Kung Fu Hustle. Surprisingly, is a much quieter, more subdued film than anything that Chow has done before. The comedy seems restrained if anything, the bulk of the film has its focus on a serious message about the importance of education as though in the interim Chow had suddenly come into fatherhood. One cannot help but think that this is Stephen Chow having become affected by the woolly-headedness that beset Robin Williams from the early 90s onwards where he became a family man and went from an edgy comedian to making mawkish mush that his kids would watch.
Many of Stephen Chows films pay homage to other films and CJ7 is his spoof take on Steven Spielbergs E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Both films feature a young lonely boy who is visited and befriended by a small cute alien creature. However, resemblances end about there. Chow seems to take great delight in puncturing the fantasy that E.T. represented. For one, the two kids in either film exist in entirely different social strata where E.T.s Henry Thomas lived in middle-class comfort, by contrast Jiao Xu here exists in direly impoverished and downtrodden (if thoroughly exaggerated) circumstances, living in the single room of a half-demolished house and eating rotting food. For Steven Spielberg, the arrival of E.T. was about a young kid fervently wishing for the miraculous, which then came down to touch his life in the form of a friend. Where E.T. proved miraculous and wondrous, CJ7 by contrast appears cute but completely useless. Initially, Chow gives us a series of scenes where we see CJ7 inventing a pair of sunglasses that send out spybots that allow the hero to cheat on his exams and gadget shoes that sprout springs, propellers, leg supports and rocket jets that allow him to win every sport there is (not to mention using Wu Xia moves to defeat a mean-tempered neighbourhood dog in hilarious silhouette). However, this proves to be a dream and when the hero goes through each of the events in actuality, the alien proves totally useless and at most demonstrates an ability to shit at the young hero with machine-gun rapidity.
Underneath the comedy, Stephen Chow has a serious message to make. His view is that there is no point waiting for the miraculous to come and deliver one from the mundane, that life is entirely what one makes of it. (All of that said, Chow does eventually allow CJ7 to create one miracle in the films most emotionally affecting scene at the end). The point that is heavily made by Chow throughout is of the necessity of education as something that can deliver one from their circumstances no matter how impoverished. There are no miracles, everything comes down to ones own effort and hard work. Indeed, rather than awaiting on CJ7 to offer aid, the young hero only succeeds when Stephen Chows father uses the impetus of confiscating the alien in order to motivate him.
It may well be different in Hong Kong culture but father Stephen Chows parenting methods do raise considerable eyebrows by more liberal Western standards in one scene that becomes difficult to watch without flinching we see Chow repeatedly slapping Jiao Xu to stop crying when he asks him to buy a CJ1 doll; while at other points he seems to order Jiao Xu to succeed by a mixture of browbeating, demanding and derisive name-calling.
CJ7 was later remade as an animated film CJ7 Loves the Earth/CJ7 The Cartoon (2010) with Stephen Chow reprising in voice the role of the father.