Today, aside from finishing Ghostbusters, I also watched Cocoon, the 1985 sci-fi film by Ron Howard. Cocoon marks one of Howard’s first films as a director, after years of acting on Happy Days. He really shines as a director here, juggling a very strange tone and plot, and a large cast of characters. Above everything else, Cocoon is mostly concerned with how we deal with our mortality. The film follows several elderly people well past their prime, as they’re faced with the harsh reality of ‘getting old’. That is, until they discover a fountain of youth-like pool, courtesy of our cosmic neighbors.
Trying to explain the plot of Cocoon will be difficult, as it’s quite a unique an odd story to begin with. Basically, aliens come to earth to retrieve 20 of their people that they had to leave here when they left, thousands of years ago. Their people are under the sea in cocoons, so they charter a boat and it’s owner, Jack, to take them out to retrieve them. Meanwhile, they keep the cocoons in a pool at a rented resort they are staying at. This just so happens to be the favorite swimming hole to break into by a few residents of the old folks home next door. Little do they know, swimming in the pool with these cocoons will have some life-altering results. Like I said, it asks a lot of the audience, and takes quite a bit of setting up. However, after that shaky first act, the movie really finds its legs. We start to learn more about the main trio of old guys, and their many problems, most of which are solved when they swim in this magical pool. Without spoiling the ending, I think it really validates the rough beginning, even if it is a little overly-sentimental.
One of the best parts of Cocoon, is the fact that the main protagonists are all senior citizens. I can’t even think of another movie that had three elderly people as leads (besides Grumpy Old Men). I’m not sure if it’s cheating or not on Ron Howards part, but it’s just so easy to feel for elderly characters. They’ve lived full and rich lives, and are now coming face to face with their mortality. It’s really great to see how they react when they first realize how powerful the effects of the pool can be. There are some great, charming montages of them diving, break-dancing, and generally living life as if they were in their 20’s all over again. That rediscovery of youth was probably the best part of Cocoon, (over all the alien stuff) and that’s saying something coming from me.
If you like Spielberg movies, (especially Close Encounters or E.T.) then Cocoon will probably feel pretty familiar. In my opinion, there’s no way Ron Howard made this movie without HEAVY influence from Close Encounters. However, with Cocoon, Howard is more interested in the people affected by these alien visitors, than the visitors themselves. It’s a pretty unique movie, so if you’re ever in the mood for a heart-warming story, cheesy visual effects, or elderly people being horny, Cocoon might be right up your alley.