COCOON 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Review

     May 11, 2010

Twenty-five years have passed since Ron Howard made old people cool with his fantasy drama Cocoon, a 1985 smash hit about a group of aliens who come back to Earth to save some long lost friends and, in the interim, let a bunch of senior citizens absorb their youthful energy by swimming in their pool. Starring Steve Guttenberg, Brian Dennehy, Wilford Brimley and Don Ameche, just to name a few, the double Oscar winner feels firmly routed in the 1980s with its costumes, music choices and overall look, but that final thirty minutes remains an emotional, original tearjerker.

The Blu-ray is much like the movie in that respect. It tows the line between being totally ’80s and a timeless piece of dramatic entertainment. Hit the jump for more details including jokes about man boobs and mustaches.

Cocoon begins with a trio of friends, played by Ameche (who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor), Brimley and Hume Cronyn, sneaking into a neighbor’s indoor pool. That pool then gets rented by a group of strangers (Dennehy and others) who also rent a boat owned by Guttenberg. The strangers use the boat to transport a bunch of cocoons from the ocean floor into their pool, which in turn makes the pool a sort of fountain of youth for the old men. We then learn the backstory of the strangers/aliens and are posed with some difficult questions about morality, mortality and most importantly, friendship.

Watching Cocoon in 2010 is a bit odd. It’s such a different movie from what we’ve become accustomed to. There’s very little real conflict, the stars are all over 60 and yet it’s a sci-fi flick with special effects that look very dated (they weren’t at the time, it won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects). It’s one of those movies that, if a 16-year-old kid watched it today, he’d probably laugh from start to finish. And not in a good way. Half the stars have become punchlines for various reasons (Guttenberg, Dennehy and Brimley come to mind), there’s literally a breakdancing scene and a whole lot of sagging old man breasts and erection jokes. How many movies released in the last two decades have flatulence humor, an elderly cast AND Oscar winning special effects? Not many. (And Cocoon: The Return doesn’t count. It came out in 1988.)

However, somehow, it all just works. At least for someone who isn’t too cynical to enjoy the ride. Credit that to the layered screenplay by Tom Benedek, superb direction by a super young Ron Howard and the unbelievable chemistry and performances by its elderly stars (Ameche, Cronyn and Jessica Handy, in particular, are standouts).

The Blu-ray picture transfer is fantastic. The film looks like it was released yesterday and while the sound mix isn’t as impressive, the film really doesn’t have a lot of sonic excitement. The James Horner score, however, is a classic.

The majority of the extras on the Blu-ray are disappointing, though. There’s a full length Ron Howard commentary – which is about as insightful as you’d Imagine (get it?) – but the five featurettes, ranging between 3-6 minutes, are total studio packaged garbage. They aren’t even finished in HD so it’s like you are watching uninteresting footage that was sitting in a vault for 25 years. And it probably was. Canned interviews, horrible voice overs, the works. The two good things about the featurettes are Ron Howard’s mustache/cowboy hat combination and that they make the viewer appreciate the actual transfer more.

Because of that transfer, and the quality of the product itself, fans of Cocoon will be happy with this Blu-ray. Just don’t expect to learn anything especially valuable about the film. Just sit back and take a trip down memory lane.

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