Perhaps it was the overly vague cover art or the fact that Ron Howard directed it, but I thought Cocoon was something else entirely different from the onset. For some reason I thought it was about some creepy alien cocoon things and instead it ended up starring Wilford Brimley. Which is fine, Brimley’s fantastic, but that’s not exactly the scenario that pops into your head when aliens are involved. I was born after this film came out and up until now it was always something referenced quite frequently in other shows and movies I watched, but nothing I’d ever actually seen. Now, however, I can take in the rather moving and touching story that is Cocoon.
This emotional story of hope given to a group of elderly friends who feel as if they’ve lived long past their prime has become a classic of contemporary cinema that continues to touch generations of film fans. When visitors from a distant galaxy return to Earth on a secret mission, their other-wordly powers afford a group of senior citizens – who had expected nothing more from life than bingo, shuffleboard, aches and pains – the chance to recapture their youth. With Don Ameche (Trading Places) in his Academy Award-winning role*** and an all-star cast, Cocoon is a magical story of love, friendship and the human spirit.
I can see why this was never a film we ever rented from the library when I was younger. We’d go once a week and rent every kind of sci-fi, action or whatever movie they had on the shelves at the time. I do vaguely recall wanting to rent Cocoon, but no one else in my family wanting to do so. So it was never rented and was always left on the shelf each week. It was never something I really wanted to see anyway so I was never broken up that we picked some Disney flick over it, but the cover art for that old VHS tape stuck in my head. The Blu-ray uses the same cover of course, so everything is pretty much the same…all except for what I had expected this film to be about, anyway.
It’s really kind of strange watching this film as it’s clearly trying to toss about a lot of innuendo, but I’ve seen more subtlety from the “Smiling Bob” commercials that air during the afternoon than from this film. Apparently when old people take a dip in the rejuvenating alien waters their hormones go berserker and they want to immediately get it on with their nearest partner. It was, of course, humorous to watch all of this but…man, I can see why my parents never wanted the 10 year old me watching this film. Talk about awkward.
But the film of course deals with much deeper issues than that; the humor is definitely there to add levity to it all, but the film really is about facing ones immortality and the way that individuals do such things. It’s interesting that retirement homes are apparently a lot like high schools with cliques and the jealous others who look upon others good fortune with disdain. It’s an age-old tale to be sure, but it’s still an interesting observation that this film makes.
The idea of really classifying this film as a sci-fi outing is really questionable, however. My library put it in that category, but the whole alien and mythical pool of youth that the retirees swim in is really just a small part of the story; it’s a much more philosophical question about life and death and what you would do if you were offered a chance at immortality. For that reason alone it’s probably one of the more profound dramas I’ve seen, recent or not, that tackles this issue; again, it’s not a very original story, but it’s the way it’s told that makes it feel different.
As superfluous as the alien involvement may ultimately be, it does add that certain “twist” to the film that would otherwise make it feel incredibly generic and boring. Ron Howard did a truly fantastic job here and anyone who hasn’t seen the film and want to quit missing what the quips on shows like Friends and Scrubs were about should really check it out as it’s Recommended.
Fox puts Cocoon out on Blu-ray in a standard single disc Elite Blu-ray case. It’s a very basic package with only the most basic of inserts and nothing else. The cover is even that of the original single VHS and DVD editions…although it’s such a classic poster, changing it up would be a shame anyway.
Video is an AVC encoded 1080p transfer and it really is quite strong in clarity and detail, but there’s an odd haze and slightly too-bright look about the whole print. I know its twenty-five years old so I’m not going to fault it any for looking a bit worn, but the fact of the matter is that it’s not a perfect transfer, so calling it absolutely stunning is rather untruthful. It does look good, however, and anyone looking to upgrade from the DVD edition won’t be disappointed in the video aspect.
Audio is similarly dated sounding, with the audio mix stretched into a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. It’s a very dialogue driven film with only the occasional sound effects making themselves noticed in the surrounds. When the sound effects do raise their voice it’s often done in muted 80s sound effect tone, with a muffled shell put over the effects. It’s not a huge issue, nor is it even that distracting, but it again keeps the A/V presentation from being anything worth checking out.
Despite this being the 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release…there are no new extras, as they’re all ported over from the previous DVD release:
• Audio Commentary by Director Ron Howard
• Behind the Scenes Featurette
• Ron Howard Profile
• Underwater Training
• Creating Antareans
• Theatrical Teaser
• Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spot #1
• TV Spot #3
• TV Spot #4
• Cocoon: The Return Teaser
The featurettes and TV spots/trailers make up only about twenty-five minutes of material, so the main draw here is the commentary by Ron Howard. I’ll only say that if you enjoy the film, then the commentary is a must because Howard is not only an immensely likable guy in interviews, but listening to him for two hours is a great pleasure as well.
Having said that…if you own the DVD already you can Skip this. There’s absolutely nothing special about it and while the A/V transfer is nice, it’s really not worth dropping the cash down to upgrade.
Cocoon is now available on Blu-ray.