To be called conventional may be seen as a compliment to the three elderly men at the center of Ron Howard’s tale of eternal youth and visitors from a far-off planet. It certainly wouldn’t bother Ben Luckett (Wilford Brimley), a spry grandfather living with his wife at a Florida retirement community. Shamed by losing his driver’s license, Ben trespasses with his buddies Joe (the great Hume Cronyn) and Art (Don Ameche in an inexplicable Oscar-winning performance) into a neighboring enclosed pool for a cheap thrill. After the land is bought by a stately alien (Brian Dennehy) and his small crew, the pool becomes an incubator for alien cocoons and is transformed into a fountain of youth; both Joe’s cancer and Ben’s eyesight are cured instantaneously. Able once again to fornicate, dance, and indulge in shenanigans, the trio is shown living it up—partially through a patented 1980s montage—until the pool’s popularity causes the death of an alien.
This death, along with the death of one of the community’s residents, points to a streak of self-seriousness and forced relevancy that plagues an otherwise completely harmless, generally well-performed entertainment. Cocoon feigns interest in the consequences of life everlasting (and, for that matter, death itself) for as long as this hesitant fascination doesn’t insist on insight or a reasonable conclusion. The outright rebuke of mortality could be explained by its accepted fantasy, but the story’s punishment and self-banishment of the one character that accepts death feels cold and highlights the film’s heavy Catholic overtones. Easily anticipated, the third act’s allegorical substitution of the Almighty for the aliens is an abhorrent bit of nonsense.
An additional, superfluous storyline, involving a love affair between a female alien and Steve Guttenberg’s working-class boat captain, affords the thirtysomething audience a foothold of sorts in a film geared almost strictly to the elderly and children. In this, the film’s eager attitude toward its own marketing feels blithe: The film has something for everyone but, in effect, offers nothing of substance to anyone. The interplay between Ameche, Cronyn, and Brimley allow for some lively, even touching scenes in a product—and make no mistake, a product is exactly what it is—that is, at best, adequate. But am I wrong in thinking that the last thing the moviegoing public needs or wants is adequacy?
Presented in a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer and framed in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Cocoon offers a clean image quality for a film with very little robust imagery. Technically speaking, it's rarely problematic: Compression problems are null and light edge enhancement is present but not by any means distracting. The clarity shines best during sunlit boat rides and the enclosed pool. A few scenes in a youthful dance club give the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix a workout, but this dialogue-heavy film offers no real showoff scene. Nevertheless, the dialogue is clean and clear, as is the docile atmosphere of the Florida coast.
A thoroughly uninformative yet amiable commentary by Ron Howard is the highlight of this disc; no matter how annoyingly pedestrian his work is, Howard himself is a charmer. Five making-of features, including one on the underwater sequences and a profile of the director, are boring, even at seven minutes long. An extra kick from the film's marketing minds: a trailer for the film's intolerable sequel.
Ron Howard's cutely innocuous sci-fi tale of an alien race helping elderly white people arrives in an adequate Blu-ray package but, in its cloying, ubiquitous commerciality, can be seen as a harbinger of where American cinema has gone wrong in the last few decades.