Cocoon (1985)

3 Feb


Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Cocoon” is another modern-day science-fiction tale in which advanced aliens from outer space visit Earth with no plans to destroy us, but just to visit us. But these aliens in “Cocoon” are easy to communicate with, simply because they could easily pass off as human. Sure, their true form is pure light, but when they put their latex rubber body suits on, they just seem like rich tourists who have their own business to tend to. They could easily pass as human!

Character actor Brian Dennehy plays Walter, the leader of the group of Antareans, as they’re called, who come to Earth on a mission. He and three of his friends (one of them played by Tahnee Welch, Raquel’s daughter) rent a boat from a young broke skipper named Jack (Steve Guttenberg) to go out into the ocean, dive deep underwater, and retrieve many cocoons of their friends that were left behind on the previous mission decades (maybe even centuries) ago.

You see, it’s said that on their planet, there’s no such thing as sickness or death and so none of the Antareans have experienced the sadness of such. And if the cocoons are taken back to the planet, those inside will be free again. In the meantime, the cocoons that are already found are being kept in the swimming pool near a retirement home, where three senior citizens (Don Ameche, Wilford Brumley, and Hume Cronyn) are tired of their boring lives and take joy in trespassing over at the pool for a little fun. But now, with the strange stones at the bottom of the pool, the pool has become a fountain of youth for them. They feel young again and are suddenly joyful of their lives.

With Walter’s permission, the three men bring their wives (Maureen Stapleton, Jessica Tandy, Gwen Verdon) to the amazing discovery and they all get second chances in being young. They go for nights on the town and even tick off others at the home.

All of this is pure delight. Just about every character is either interesting or enjoyable to watch. We have the scenes with the three guys, who are all wonderful, especially Wilford Brumley who always has a twinkle in his eye that reminds us of a kind grandfather we either had or wish to have had. (Actually, I didn’t know that he wasn’t even at age 50 when this movie was filmed!) Then, we have the scenes with the aliens who just want their friends back and when things go wrong midway through the film, there’s a shocking look of revelation on Brian Dennehy’s face that brings his character full-circle. There’s also a sweet relationship between Guttenberg and Welch and one bizarre scene in which Welch shows Guttenberg her planet’s way of sharing affection with one another.

What I didn’t like about “Cocoon” was its ending. As everyone is invited to stay with the Antareans on their planet, we get a race, a chase, a child in the mix, confused orderlies and police, and a spaceship—just a typical, average Spielbergian ending that wasn’t like anything we’ve seen up until that point.

But everything else in “Cocoon” is just wonderfully entertaining, with great acting and a real feel of whimsy. It’s just a wonder as to why director Ron Howard wanted to end this wonderful film with a climax?

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