Chow, a homeless single-father laborer, and his young son, Dicky (played by actress Xu Jiao, who was 11 at the time), make a meager living, their home an abandoned lot near a garbage dump. One day, the laborer scavenges the dump for usable items when he comes across something that's literally out of this world...
The name CJ7 actually comes from a known riverboat in China; "CJ" means Chang Jiang, the Chinese name for the Yangtze River, and is unrelated to the 1976-86 Jeep CJ-7.
There was also an anime version of the film, with much more fantastical elements. As of 2023, this is the last film whereby Stephen played the male lead.
CJ7 has examples of:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Maggie. She develops a crush on Dicky for sticking up to her against bullies. Needless to say, Dicky is slightly intimidated.
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Dicky and Chow. Even though they tend to argue a lot, deep down they can't live without each other.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: After getting into some trouble, Dicky and Chow get into an argument that results in Dicky wishing for his father to go away forever and Chow promising to if Dicky gets at least a 60% on his exam. One 60% mark and construction accident later...
- Bittersweet Ending: Chow is brought back from the dead and everything is back to normal. Unfortunately, this was at the cost of CJ7's life. This is later subverted, when a spacecraft lands and many other aliens like CJ7 of different colors and patterns come out, making Dicky realize that the beings are headed by his very own toy.
- Break the Cutie: Poor, poor Dicky... After a very heated argument with his father, Dicky wishes his father would leave him alone forever. The next day, Chow is killed in a construction accident. This leaves Dicky emotionally devastated, telling himself it's just a dream and that he'll wake up to find his father sleeping next to him again. He does, but with a tragic cost.
- Cow Tools: CJ7 can be seen pulling out a multitude of tools, including a ray gun, and a propeller-driven alarm clock... But that's just during a dream sequence... However, afterwards we see the elementary schoolkids chasing down CJ7 using the kind of foreign objects you'd see at a wrestling match...
- Crosscast Role:
- Xu Jiao, who plays Dicky, is actually a girl. In fact, most of the supporting boy cast are actually young girls (including, but not limited to, Huang Lei and Yao Wenxue).
- Maggie, Dicky's Abhorrent Admirer, is played by Han Yong Hua, a large weightlifting man.
- Dicky activates CJ7 and it shows instructions for how to use it. And when its batteries stop working, thus "dying."
- Chow and Dicky get into an argument. Chow promises Dicky to leave him alone forever if Dicky passes his next test. As you can guess, Karma was keeping a watchful eye that day...
- CJ7 uses its powers to repair the fan, after which it ends up extremely tired. CJ7 does the same to revive Chow... And dies in the process.
- Gonk: Maggie, who looks like a full-grown fat guy. Probably because she was a full-grown fat guy.
- Heroic Sacrifice: After Chow is killed in a construction accident, CJ decides to revive him by pushing its reconstruction abilities to the absolute limit, despite knowing that this will kill it too.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Chow's foreman. He can be very hard on him at times, but is later revealed to be sympathetic to Chow's situation with his son. After angrily firing Chow, he later apologizes for calling Dicky a cheater, offers him his job back and throws in a bonus to help pay for Dicky's textbooks. He's also distraught when he learns about Chow's death.
- Kids Are Cruel: The kids who bully Dicky and abuse CJ7. This is later subverted when Dicky and the main bully shake hands and leave on better terms.
- Love at First Punch: Johnny's fat mook is smitten with Maggie when she catches his pull-backed punch.
- Love Dodecahedron: The ending to the film shows one: A fat mook under Johnny's employ is in love with Maggie, but Maggie is in love with Dicky, who has requited feelings for a girl, who is already taken by Johnny.
- Mechanical Lifeforms: CJ7 might possibly be one, given that springs stick out of its head when it's injured, and it malfunctions spectacularly when given too many emotion commands.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: CJ7's Sleep-Mode Size was made from fabric scraps with a markered face, and a green rubber loop from a toy.
- Parents as People: Chow. While he can come off as impatient at times, it's all because he's working tirelessly so he can keep paying for Dicky's education and feels like his son doesn't appreciate it. It doesn't help that this includes their poverty-stricken lifestyle. At the end of the day, all Chow really wants is for his son to have a better future.
- Perpetual Poverty: Chow and Dicky are so poor that they live in the ruins of an old house and finally getting to buy an electric fan is like getting a plasma screen TV for them.
- Product Placement: The "CJ1" toy is actually from the existing Robosapiens toyline.
- Retraux: Apart from the toy and some traffic lights, this movieverse seems to be stuck in the 1970's.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: CJ7 and the ensuing horde of its own species that are dropped off on Earth. Holy mother of cuteness, CJ7 is incredibly cute and lively for a pet that's not even technically alive!
- Rubber Man: CJ7's body is pliable and stretchy, as it turns out.
- Secondary Character Title: Believe it or not, CJ7 is not the main focus of the plot. The movie is about Dicky and Chow overcoming their problems with each other and their lifestyle. The premise of a boy finding an alien and keeping it as a toy is barely expanded upon.
- Sleep-Mode Size: When CJ7 uses all its power to bring Chow back to life, its antennae ball thingy falls out and disintegrates, and it shrinks down to the size of a small(er) doll, complete with X's for eyes.
- Starring Special Effects: CJ7 is CGI and interacts with live-action actors.
- Title Drop: When bullies mock Dicky's newfound toy (what seems to be a rubber ball), Dicky declares it to be the "CJ7".
- Vocal Dissonance: Maggie retains the voice of a little girl despite having the physical appearance of a large weightlifting man.