Blu-ray Review: Cocoon (1985)

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Ticket-buyers expecting On Golden Pond were in for quite a surprise when they lined up for director Ron Howard's Cocoon. Essentially E.T. for the senior set; although like Golden Pond it involved the nature of growing old with loved ones and connecting with other generations near water, Cocoon is a strange but pleasant film filled with wild creative abandon.

While I'm not entirely sure that the pieces fit together very naturally involving aliens and seniors, it's nonetheless arguably one of 1985's most original premises to be greenlit in screenplay form in Hollywood during their then-popular love affair with post Star Wars and Close Encounters style outer space and the gentle comedic challenges ushered in by way of movies such as Back to the Future.

Celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary with a release on Blu-ray disc, the beautifully shot work set and filmed in and around St. Petersburg, Florida centers on a small group of residents living at the local nursing home.

Used to depending on one another for companionship, grocery shopping and teamwork, the three men in the group – Joe, Ben and Arthur (Hume Cronyn, Wilford Brimley, and Don Ameche respectively)-- regularly escape their surroundings to sneak into the large unoccupied home next door in order to swim in their grand indoor pool.

Unbeknown to the seniors, four friendly aliens disguised as humans who've arrived to rescue twenty of their species that were left behind thousands of years earlier, have purchased the home and charged the pool with their unique rejuvenating life-force energy.

Needing to use the life-force simply to charge the cocoons housing their fellow aliens they've gone diving with a clueless boat captain (Steve Gutenberg) to obtain, the senior swimmers are in for quite a life-changing surprise when they realize that the strange “pods” at the bottom of the pool have managed to rid them of their typical aches and pains.

Whether it's sharpening Ben's vision or stirring all three of the men's libido sans Viagra, the men realize they've never felt better in their life than they do in the newly discovered fountain of youth they're eager to share with their nearest and dearest.

Although overall you get the feeling that Howard was aiming for a truly gentle comic fantasy and it succeeds on these levels in some beautifully rich sequences, nonetheless it has a rather strong undercurrent of a fable about “heaven” that at times threatens to hit viewers over the head with its message about life and death.

Therefore, the screenplay threatens to unravel at times to a rather messy effect given its contradictions in tone, plot, theme and character as we rush through marital problems, ethical issues. And despite the fact that it may have benefited from one more rewrite, fewer but stronger characters etc., the acting is uniformly excellent as following Splash which was also water-based, Howard proves that as an actor himself, he knows how to work with fellow craftsmen.

Impressively, the Academy Award winning effects are still superior for a 1985 effort and the crisp transfer to high definition makes the wind whip through the trees to a beautiful visual and auditory effect.

And even though the film is decidedly one that will play with a different message and different success rate depending on the viewer, it's nonetheless guaranteed to put a smile on your face given the talents of Oscar winning Ameche, Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Gutenberg and others even if you're unsettled by it all the same.

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FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.