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Sunday 19 September 2021

Burl reviews Cocoon! (1986)


Oh-oh-oldtimers, it’s Burl, here to review a picture that dares to ask the question “What if a bunch of pensioners met a group of benevolent, polo shirt-wearing aliens?” Ha ha, other pictures have asked this same question, but few of them managed to do it with as much box office success as this one, which is called Cocoon!

Of course it was directed by the same cunningham who brought us Apollo 13 and the firehall picture, Ron Howard! And ha ha, through the 1980s, with every fresh Howard joint, my friend Sean and I used to torment our pal Dave by telling him to meet us at the theater for the 9:30 show, while we would arrive at the 7:30 screening, watch it, and meet Dave in the lobby for the later show as though we’d just arrived! Then, as the movie played, we would whisper "guesses" about what was going to happen next, and of course we would always be right!

Ha ha, it sounds cruel and it probably was, but consider that we only did it for Ron Howard movies, and not even for all of those! And of course the joke was on Sean and I in the end, because we were the ones who had to sit though a Ron Howard movie twice! Anyway, ha ha, Cocoon was one of these, and we had a good time insta-spoiling it for our friend Dave, so I think on it fondly, even if it’s mostly a bunch of silly tripe!

Our setting is the retiree’s paradise, St. Petersburg Florida! Our most prominent characters are a trio of old ducks, Ben, Art, and Joe, played by Wilford Brimley from The Thing and High Road to China (who, it should be noted, had his fiftieth birthday during production, so was a good quarter-century younger than his co-stars), Don Ameche from Trading Places and Heaven Can Wait, and Hume Cronyn from Brewster’s Millions and Impulse! These jaspers regularly sneak to the untenanted mansion next door for a dip in the lavish indoor pool, until one day the house is rented by a quartet of space strangers!

The old cronkites don’t know these are aliens, of course, but they do know that once they sneak their next swim after the aliens have moved in, they start feeling a little rambunctious! Ha ha! Brian Dennehy from F/X and First Blood plays Walter, the boss alien, who is also the largest alien; and the other three are played by famous children Tahnee Welch and Tyrone Power Jr., along with Mike Nomad from Friday the 13th part VI: Jason Lives! Their project involves rescuing fellow aliens who were left behind in cocoons at the bottom of the sea, which they then deposit in the pool!

Of course there are confusions along the way! Jack Gilford from Catch-22 plays another elderly, one who phumphers about and doesn’t hold with all these strange goings-on! Steve Guttenberg from The Bedroom Window plays the boatsman Jack, who not only learns the truth about the otherworlders but gets a chance to make sweet alien love in the pool! Maureen Stapleton from Interiors and The Money Pit, Jessica Tandy from The Birds, Gwen Verdon from Alice, and Herta Ware from Slam Dance and Species are the wives and sweethearts of the old jaspers, and there are various personal stories involving love, adultery, and death, all intertwined here; and then D.A.R.Y.L. himself, Barret Oliver, plays an astronomy-loving grandchild!

It’s a strange picture when you think about it, but there was kind of a geezer fad in 80s movies! Ha ha, look at On Golden Pond; and it lasted all the way through to *batteries not included in 1988! There’s even a sequel to this one, they say, in which the oldsters return to their home planet! The picture introduces big concepts like the value of mortality, but never expands upon them; and it sets up conflicts like the choice between everlasting life and ever seeing your family again, but never wrestles with them in any substantial way! The kindly beneficence of the aliens helps bleed the picture of potential drama and depth, but the saucer people’s likeability and the general good nature of the picture almost make up for that! There are a few touching scenes, achieved with no small help from the supposedly superannuated charmers in the cast! The photography and ILM trick effects are very studio-80s, so if you like that sort of thing, and don't mind geriatric comedy replacing action, you’ll like this! Ha, ha, I give Cocoon two blue-steel cannonballs!


  1. Don't forget Kirk and Burt making old guys cool in Tough Guys! The nadir or apex of these 80s old geezer efforts, not sure which. Cocoon is just blah.

    1. You'd probably have more regard for Cocoon if you'd used is as a tool in a series of pointless but amusing practical jokes on a friend! Ha ha!

    2. Oh, and good call on Tough Guys!

    3. This week they started selling tickets for the "Red Hot Chili Peppers" coming to Germany next year and my first thought was of Kirk Douglas picking up a girl at a concert in "Tough guys" by saying: "I have all of their records." - They certainly have come a long way.

    4. These comments are giving me a maniacal need to see Tough Guys again for the first time in thirty-five years!