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Cocoon and Cocoon The Return

Cocoon is an underappreciated classic. It gets overlooked because it's a sci-fi movie that's not a special effects extravaganza. It's a Steve Guttenberg movie that's not a dumb comedy. It spends more time with a group of senior citizens than it does it it's young, good looking "leads". There's not really any action to speak of. In short, it's not a movie that is not easily pigeonholed, and if we can't readily label what something is we tend to try to ignore it.

Cocoon is about a group of older people coming to terms with their getting older, and the fact that they likely don't have much longer in this world.  But while the flesh may be getting weak, the spirit is not. The men like to sneak over to a neighboring house and use the swimming pool. The fact that the house has just been rented isn't going to stop them either. The renters, as they will eventually find out, are aliens. They have come to Earth to rescue their fellow aliens who were left behind 10,000 years before when Atlantis sank, taking their base with it. They have hired a down on his luck boat captain to help them retrieve the cocoons holding their comrades.

The old men don't let some strange looking rocks in the pool spoil their fun. They find that after some time splashing around they feel rejuvenated. They each go home and for what appears to be the first time in years for each of them they all get some from the respective lady loves in their lives. The boat captain does a little peeping on the lady in the alien group, and sees her remove her skin. Rather than being justifiably angry that he was being a complete pervert, this starts their romance because it was the 80's and skeevy shit like that in movies was par for the course. The old men also learn about the aliens after getting caught at the pool.

After a mishap causes the pool to lose it's energy, killing a couple of the cocooned aliens in the process, the aliens have to replace the remaining cocoons in the ocean because now they won't survive the trip back. The residents of the retirement home are invited to go back in place of the aliens who are being left behind, to a planet where they will never get sick or die. In the closest thing to an action sequence, police and the Coast Guard try to chase down the boat taking the aliens and the seniors to their rendezvous with the space ship. Of course, just recapping the story doesn't do it justice. The movie is made by solid performances from Wilford Brimley, Don Ameche, Jessica Tandy, and really everyone involved. Even Steve Guttenberg is really good in it.

Cocoon The Return is often cited as a sequel that undermines it's predecessor, and that is not entirely unjustified. For me the movie is better than most give it credit for though. The performances are still solid from everyone involved. At the beginning it seems like they are going to make Guttenberg's character more of a shuckster like he play in most of his other movies. Luckily that is dropped pretty quickly and never really comes back. Courteney Cox has a pre-Friends role and is pretty good. Just about everyone of importance from the first movie is back, exempting director Ron Howard who chose to make Willow rather than undercut the first movie.

The aliens have returned because seismic activity threatens the cocoons. Even though they were unable to make the trip in the first movie, for some reason now they are able to. But alas, one of the cocoons has been taken by a scientific research team, who soon discover the E.T. within. This adds a little bit of suspense that the first movie was missing, as they have to rescue the alien before he dies or the military takes him away. That might be why I don't dislike the movie as much as many seem to, even though it does minimize the impact of the choice of the characters in the first movie to leave when they just come back in a few years. Coming back takes it's toll as well. Of the six who return, one dies and three decide to stay, leaving only one couple to return to the alien planet because the baby they are now expecting will likely not be born if they stay on Earth at their age.

The tone of the sequel mostly stays true to the original, which is a rarity for sequels when the original director isn't involved. They don't try to explain too much about the aliens or life on the other planet, which is another pitfall avoided.  The new characters are likeable and well played. While the story of the sequel may not be completely logical at times, I have honestly seen movies with much worse logic that are thought of more highly than this one. Don't go into either movie expecting a science fiction extravaganza. They are feel good, schmaltzy movies about old people coming to terms with being old. They are about losing family and loved ones to the ravages of time.  And mostly they are about not growing old gracefully, but instead continuing to have fun and enjoy life.  The first movie, like I said, is an underrated classic. The second movie is an enjoyable enough way to kill a couple of hours.


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