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Cocoon (Blu-ray Review)

cocoonBD1Ron Howard is one of those directors who I consider “hit and miss.”  For every one or two great films that he puts out, he’ll follow up with something awful like that wasted effort “The Missing.” Of course, it wasn’t always like that.  Following the success of “Splash,” Ron decided to tackle some science fiction.  Cocoon was the name of the film. 25 years after its theatrical release, does it still hold up top scrutiny?  Read on, and see for yourself.

Film 

Cocoon is one of several entries into the fantasy science fiction genre that was really popular during the 80’s.  Cocoon is about a group of elderly retirees who discover a swimming pool that contains several cocoons at the bottom. In these cocoons are dormant aliens that at some point will be taken home.   It’s through these cocoons that the elderly folks who take a dip in the water receive their regenerative powers.  Whatever ailments, diseases they may have had are gone.  It’s a fountain of youth, sort of.

Don Ameche, Wilfred Brimley, and Hume Cronyn star as Art, Ben, and Joe.  They’re a couple of old friends who kick it at the retirement home, but play by their own rules and sneak into an abandoned swimming pool across the way.  Unbeknownst to them, at the bottom of the pool lay several alien cocoons that literally infuse them with “life.”  Once they get a taste, they want more and get addicted to the rush.  Steve Guttenberg plays the part of the down on his luck houseboat owner, who gets a reprieve at the very last minute by Walter (Brian Denehey) and Kitty (Tahnee Welch).  Walter and Kitty have their own secrets and motives for wanting to charter the boat.  They know something.  In terms of tone, Cocoon knows exactly what it is.  In watching it I kept noticing lots of themes throughout that made it stand out.  Selfishness, morality, addiction, ego, etc…  All of these themes are present and underlined throughout the film.  Ironically, the older actors / actresses steal the show, including Denehey, from Guttenberg and Welch.  There are many touching scenes in the film between the various actors that made laugh and chuckle, because in certain cases it was downright adorable.  Yeah, I said adorable.

Cocoon won the Academy Award for best visual effects in a film, although now certain scenes do look a bit cheesy, but it’s tastefully cheesy, and I’m a big fan of optical, miniature, physical effects over their cgi counterparts.  I don’t believe that the use of traditional effects will detract viewers from the story.  Some effects are downright outstanding.

I recommend that curious readers take the plunge and give Cocoon a shot.  Who knows, by the end you may have a tear in your eye or an ear-to-ear smile.  I had the latter.  It was very cool.

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Video

Cocoon is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1-the image fills up the entire screen.  Cocoon came out in 1985, but at first glance you would not know it.  This transfer by 20th Century Fox comes through nice and natural for the most part.  Grain is ever present, but it’s natural, and instances of intrusive DNR have been used.  Like I’ve said in the past, you can run but you can’t hide when it comes to spotting dated fx, and Cocoon is no exception.  I would say that during certain parts of the alien show came off as “too bright” it by no means made the image suffer.  It’s just signs of the times. Being a 25 year old film, specs, dirt, scratches are absent.  I will say that for being in sunny Florida, it was overcast during the filming.  The brightest things in the film are the aliens, not the sun.

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Audio

I love 80’s synth scores, even though Cocoon doesn’t have one for it’s entire running time, when it does, it’s a sonic treat.  The cheesy bass lines immerse oneself in the tunes of the 80’s.  There are certain times through out the film where the sound does get kind of sharp and trebbly, but it’s again due to the aliens and their particular sound field.  The ambiance sound field is particularly active, and you’ll get a kick out of towards the film’s final act.  I was surprised, considering that most 80’s films are very front driven.  Not Cocoon. nThe DTS HD-MA audio track is pretty good for a film of this age.

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Special Features 

Not a bad assortment of features, but what kills the experience is that they’re all in standard definition.

  • Commentary by Ron Howard – Just a downright wholesome commentary by Ron Howard which is very entertaining and never boring.
  • Behind the Scenes Faturette – Dated 1985 EPK on the making of Cocoon.
  • Ron Howard Profile – Another vintage featurette that talks about Howard’s rise as an actor and switching into directing.
  • Underwater Training – Vintage featurette on what the actors had to go through to train for the underwater sequences.
  • Actors – A vintage overview of the actors with snippets of interviews.
  • Creating the Antereans – A featurette that briefly explains the visual effects of the film, but no actual footage of the creatures or make-up.  It should have been called a visual effects featurette.
  • Theatrical Teaser – Theatrical teaser of the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer of the film.
  • 3 Tv Spots – Three television commercials for the film.
  • Cocoon: The Return Teaser – Teaser trailer for the sequel.

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Final Thoughts 

Going into for the first time I was a bit hesitant, but after all was said and done, it turned out to be pretty good.  Cocoon is a charming, funny, sentimental film.  It’s not as great as Close Encounters of the Third Kind but has its place alongside that film, in my opinion.  They’re both on that similar side of the spectrum.  I hear that there’s a sequel to Cocoon, so you know what that means, right?

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

1 Response to “Cocoon (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    Hmm. Somehow I made it through life all these years never seeing this one.