New on DVD: 'CJ7,' 'Smart People'

From Stacie Hougland: It's a lean week for new releases, but if you're a Stephen Chow fan, you might want to check out CJ7, a wildly bizarre yet strangely watchable kid flick by the writer/director of Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle.

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Chow stars as Ti, a dirt-poor construction worker whose paycheck largely goes to pay for son Dicky's (Jiao Xu, a girl playing a boy, just one of its several gender-bending jokes) private school, where he's bullied by the rich kids. While looking for shoes for Dicky in the junkyard one night, Ti finds a mysterious rubbery green ball for Dicky to play with, unaware an alien ship left it behind. The "ball" turns into a dog/E.T./gremlin alien, which Dicky befriends and envisions to have super powers enabling him to cheat in school and win at sports. In reality its powers are limited--until it comes to a certain tragedy that happens late in the film.

This film screams "suspended disbelief" beyond the whole alien dog thing -- what father would choose private school over, say, food? A clean bed? Clothing? I also found some of it oddly cruel for a kids' movie. Nobody's very nice to the (creepy? cute? both? neither?) alien, who is a bit nasty himself, and other than Chow, none of the actors are terribly likable. That aside, CJ7's never boring, occasionally loopy, and always visually pleasing.

Extras: Director commentary, making-of featurette, a TV special (promotional ad), and some behind-the-scenes info. There's also a (pretty worthless) game, "CJ7: Mission Control." As of this writing, the BD Live feature was unavailable.

Overview: A basically entertaining kids flick that might not be suitable for all kids, and may underwhelm fans of Chow's previous work.

Also New This Week:
Smart People: Wonder Boys meets Sideways. Dennis Quaid plays a self-centered professor estranged from his brother (Thomas Haden Church) and distanced from his kids (Ellen Page, Ashton Holmes). When he suffers a head injury, his brother comes back into his family's life, and starts falling for one of his former students (Sarah Jessica Parker).

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