Cocoon (1985)

Synopsis:

A group of senior citizens stumble across a swimming pool with regenerating powers. What the old folks don’t know is that the pool is being used by a race of aliens to store cocoons that house fellow extraterrestrial beings.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Age isn’t everything.”

With Cocoon, actor-turned-director Ron Howard proved that his smash-hit Splash (1984) wasn’t a fluke. The movie cemented his career as a filmmaker. Although Howard went on to greater success as both a filmmaker and a producer, Cocoon is still one of his most satisfying movies — this touching adult fable holds up splendidly.

Cocoon is a perfect example of how a sci-fi story rises above the ordinary when you emphasize human drama over special effects. It would have been a pretty lackluster picture if it was just about aliens vising Earth. The screenplay by Tom Benedek (Zeus and Roxanne) is keen to make the characters the focal point of the story.

It’s a well-written script. We get an understanding of the characters and their lives. According to director Howard, the idea was to have the elderly community mimic high school dynamics. The gossip, the cliques, etc., it definitely feels like a geriatric version of a high school drama, with a touch of whimsy. Sometimes it’s witty, sometimes it’s so poignant that it hurts your heart, sometimes it’s simply magical.

Admittedly, the film’s strongest suit is its terrific cast, which is a mixture of old pros and newbies. Despite the fact that Don Ameche (Down Argentine Way) received an Oscar for playing one of the retirees, I thought Wilford Brimley (The Natural) gave the best performance in the movie. Brimley’s scenes with young Barret Oliver (The Neverending Story), who plays his grandson, are particularly affecting.

I did find the Oscar-winning visual effects severely underwhelming. This isn’t one of George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic’s finest offerings. I thought Spielberg’s Close Encounter of the Third Kind, made almost ten years earlier, had much better visuals. But like I said before, this isn’t really about special effects, this is about people, and the less than stellar effects didn’t prevent me from enjoying the film.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Cocoon works because of its good writing, thoughtful direction and sincere performances. It operates on a much deeper level than most movies of its type — it’s shocking to find so much humanity in a fantasy movie. It has definitely stood the test of time. Even though it isn’t nearly as good as Steven Spielberg’s classic E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), or even John Carpenter’s Starman (1984), Cocoon is a refreshingly grownup take on science-fiction tropes. Color, 117 minutes, Rated PG-13.

Followed by Cocoon: The Return (1988)

12 responses to “Cocoon (1985)

  1. Despite the drama in Cocoon about the risk of cheating nature, its resolution proves that you’re not really cheating nature if you’re doing what makes you feel like the best that you can be. Because if that’s not natural, then I don’t know what is. Thank you, Eric, for including this very special film in your reviews.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Ah, nostalgia reigns supreme here….
    Such a fun experience back in the day. I remember a lot of audience reaction, like when I saw Tootsie.
    “The humanity in a fantasy movie” that you speak of was so true. I remember feeling touched, and I usually don’t like and actually resent my heart strings being pulled, lol.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I miss the days when audiences reacted to a film in a movie theatre. I remember the theater erupting into applause at the end of Rocky (1976), or when Superman saves Lois Lane in Superman (1978). Memories! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Star Trek movie comedy could always feel most naturalistic, as opposed to all the traditional puns by Schwarzenegger and the actors who play James Bond.

      Liked by 2 people

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