The Film (3/5)
It just seemed like a normal boring day at The Sunny Shores retirement home. But three friends who live there (Wilford Brimley, Don Ameche, and Hume Cronyn) discover a pool next door in an empty mansion. There’s something odd in the pool. There are giant rocks in it, and whenever the friends swim in the pool, they suddenly feel more alive. While this is going on, A local boat captain named Jack (Steve Guttenberg) is taking the owners of the mansion on a diving trip, and he discovers there are actually aliens called Antareans. The Anatarens mean no harm, as they just want to return some of their fellow species back to their planet. But things start to get out of hand when the locals notice the retirees are starting to act like teenagers again.
COCOON is a such an odd sci-fi movie. On the surface it’s an alien drama, but instead of the government stepping in and causing a panic, the movie is pretty low key and personal. The issue of alien invasion is mentioned and Steve Guttenberg’s character mentions body snatchers when he first discovers the aliens, but the film quickly throws us a curve ball. The aliens mean no harm, and there actually helpful towards mankind. The real drama of the story is the high and lows of the fountain of youth. The question of aging takes center stage in the plot.
COCOON questions if it’s morally right to cheat nature and live forever. The three main characters start off well and they take the pool for granted. But where I think the movie trips over its self and stays average is the back and forward the characters go through. At points selfish and then sorry for their actions, the film never really makes up its mind if there in the right or not. And a good part of the running time of the movie is a lot of the same, just older folks living it up. So that’s what keeps COCOON from being great, the middle section just drags and the ending feels rushed.
Director Ron Howard has had a very unusual career and filmography. Most of his films are character based and have a down to earth personality. His films are wildly all over the place in quality with from great early hits like NIGHT SHIFT (a huge personal favorite), to the unpleasant HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS movie starring a semi disturbed Jim Carrey. But while COCOON has pacing problems, Mr. Howard does delver some great believable characters. The seniors all have plenty of wonderful character bits and the Aliens have a charming relationship with them. Cast wise, everyone gives quality performances. Wilford Brimley and Brian Dennehy are the anchors of the film that keep the film from being too silly. Steve Guttenberg and Tahnee Welch have a really well done relationship and romance as man and alien. Their romance doesn’t feel forced.
This region B Blu-ray from Eureka, sounds and looks wonderful. The release comes with four audio options. The first is the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 channel track. The track is really well leveled with no noticeable issues. The James Horner score sounds especially good. The next one is the English LPCM 2.0 channel track. Not as sharp as the 5.1 track, but still perfectly fine. The third track is an isolated music and effects track that really highlights Horner’s music. Lastly there’s the Commentary track by Ron Howard. Also included are easy to read English subtitles with white text.
COCOON has a 1080p HD transfer. The movie simply looks marvelous. The transfer has minor film grain and all the colors pop off the screen. The swimming pool scenes are glowing with color with light blues and nice warm yellows. The locations really shine, and the transfer beautifully highlights the magic hour scenes. There are some minor visual issues with the alien effects get blurry at times and some of the matte shots shake a bit.
Eureka has filled this Blu-ray with extras. First up is an audio commentary with director Ron Howard. The Commentary is filled with information on every aspect of the film. Howard is very soft spoken and there’s not much dead air. There’s a set of featurettes on the movie’s production. Included are Behind the Scenes (6 minutes and 56 seconds), Ron Howard Profile (2 minutes and 34 seconds), Underwater training (3 minutes and 35 seconds), Actors (2 minutes and 52 seconds), and Creating Antareans (3 minutes and 56 seconds). All the featurettes seemed to be sourced from a video transfer, as there is some image issues and pops in the audio. It is neat to see extras from this vintage. Next up is the three tv spots for the film and a trailer gallery with the original theatrical trailer, teaser, and COCOON THE RETURN (1988) trailer. Rounding out the package is a 20-page booklet of liner notes with an essay by James Oliver and production stills.
COCOON is a very enjoyable sci-fi character piece, that suffers from some pacing issues and a rushed ending. The warm and fuzzy feeling doesn’t feel shallow or forced. The movie tackles the subject of aging with some great performances form its actors. Not great, but good. The Eureka! Blu-ray comes with some good extras and an excellent looking and sounding transfer. Recommended.