Who's in It:
Jiao Xu, Stephen Chow, Kitty Zhang Yuqi
The Basics: A poor boy is given a junkyard-scavenged substitute for the latest robot-dog toy that his classmate owns. But this new creature turns out to be both better and worse than the high-tech gadget, because it's an actual alien. Wacky antics ensue until it's time for a little bit of moralizing. And I realize I just made it sound less cool than it is, but it's the latest from Kung Fu Hustle director Chow, so the lame stuff is outweighed by the great visuals stuff bouncing all around the screen.
What's the Deal? Take the sentimentality of E.T. and the strange, unsettled tone of Gremlins, the cuteness of Sanrio cartoon characters and the chaotic goals of the little blue alien from Lilo & Stitch, and there's your main computer-generated character. It's not so much a mess as it is a live-action cartoon where anything can happen. That it doesn't conform to Western ideas of how people behave or how cute kids should act might just be something that will remain lost in translation.
How It's Like the Original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: It never flinches from grim subject matter like poverty and pain but hands it over in a flat-out weird and cartoonish way. Kids used to be able to handle more of that in kid-oriented movies until adults decided to soften everything and "protect" them from dark-themed, kid-aimed films like Babe, Pig in the City. Sad.
But How Poop and Booger-Intensive Is It? That's a good question. The answer is that there's a healthy amount of both. There's some eating of boogers, which you really don't see enough of in movies starring children. And there's a really creative alien machine-gun-feces moment that must be seen to be believed.
Transgender Kid Acting:The little boy in it named Dicky is actually being played by a girl named Jiao Xu. And for someone pretending to be a boy and acting opposite what is most likely a little plastic stand-in for the CJ7 creature, she's got quite a range.