“We won’t get any older, and we won’t ever die.”
Ron Howard delivered this nice 80s sci-fi flick about an alien named Walter (Brian Dennehy) – from a planet called Antarea – who visits Earth on a rescue mission to collect his friends who were inadvertently left behind at the bottom of the ocean – encased in life-supporting rock-like cocoons – following the sinking of Atlantis, 10,000 years ago.
After retrieving the cocoons from the Gulf of Mexico with the help of understanding earthling Jack (Steve Guttenberg), Walter places them in the swimming pool of a rented deserted house in St Petersburg, Florida to energise them for their trip home.
Some trespassing elderly folk from the Sunny Shores Retirement Community – Art (Don Ameche), Ben (Wilford Brimley) and Joe (Hume Cronyn) – involuntarily absorb the pool’s life force and, to their amazed delight, find that continued bathing in the pool brings a resurgence of youthful health and high spirits.
One of the men is cured of cancer, another finds his eyesight restored, and each finds his libido leaping like a 17-year-old’s. The three veteran actors are excellent as codgers who have regained their youth and vitality, although the rejuvenated oldsters look rather ridiculous break dancing and cavorting about.
The trio is only mildly disconcerted to learn that their fountain of youth belongs to an alien named Walter, and before long, Art’s friend (Gwen Verdon) and the other men’s wives (Maureen Stapleton and Jessica Tandy) join in the daily dips and they all gambol about like teenagers.
Problems arise when word gets out about the healing potential of the pool and a mass of over-enthusiastic OAP’s find out what’s going on, take a dip and unintentionally drain the water of its therapeutic power, leading to one of the film’s most potent and emotional scenes involving a dying cocooned alien.
Toward the climax, as Walter and his fellow Antareans are ready to return to their home planet, the ageing humans are offered the opportunity of a lifetime with an invitation to leave their families and join the aliens to live a life eternal in Antarea.
The alien portrayals come off as gimmicky and Tahnee Welch (daughter of Raquel, playing a pretty alien named Kitty) shows her butt – and Mama’s got nothin’ on her daughter . . .
Cocoon became a sizable hit for 20th Century Fox and its famed Jaws producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown. It also clinched two Academy Awards; one for Best Supporting Actor for Don Ameche and a second for Best Visual Effects.
Cocoon Returns reunited the entire cast three years later, including a brief appearance by Brian Dennehy during the climax. The sequel was not successful.
Rose ‘Rosie’ Lefkowitz
Tyrone Power Jr.