1985 in Film – Cocoon

Release Date: June 21st
Box Office: $75,901,168

Guttenberg, man. Now there was a guy who had his fingerprints all over the decade known as the 80s. Seriously, by this point his box office total was somewhere north of $170m in six films which was good work for the time.

Was he the centre of all of his films? Probably not, which is the case for Cocoon. You see a few names on the poster but his name isn’t the one at the top of the poster.

The film is a sci-fi film but with a large slab of wholesome Americana right through the middle of it. The sci-fi comes from the aliens in the film; 10,000 years ago they had an outpost on Earth, Atlantis. When they left some were left behind in rock like cocoons (geddit!) to keep them alive and their colleagues are back to collect. Through several plot jumps they end up in a swimming pool rented by aliens disguised as humans, a pool that has been charged with ‘life force’ to enable them to survive the trip home.

Wouldn’t you know it, this just happens to be next door to an old folks home who stumble across the pool and find out that taking a swim in it has a re-energising effect. Cue lots of warm feeling moments of old people being youthful and that.

It’s the cast that saves the film; off to one side you have Guttenberg doing all his usual aw shucks stuff which allows the older cast to do the heavy lifting. You have people like Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley and Jessica Tandy to name but a few. It’s a list of solid character actors that have been honing their craft for years so you can’t help but be drawn to them.

All of this is kept in line by the direction of Ron Howard. Cocoon is his fourth film, a follow up to his big hit Splash of the previous year. The film slots nicely into his milleau, that smalltown American setting where you can just smell the apple pie cooking. He doesn’t come at it with a satirical view or to throw anything under the bus, he’s just there to tell a good yarn.

Cocoon ends up being a pretty good yarn. Good enough to make a fair bit of money at the box office and even pick up a couple of Oscars: one for the special effects and a Supporting Actor nod for Ameche. Sure, that award may have been one of those ‘give it to them for their career rather than that particular film’ kind of an Oscar but it makes for a nice coda to the film.

A tale of people left behind getting one final chance to shine.

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