Thursday, May 14, 2020

Sci-Fi Watch: Cocoon (1985)

Watched:  I actually am not sure.  Roughly 05/05/2020
Format:  Cable
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director: Ron Howard

I don't remember seeing Cocoon (1985) after about 1989 or so, but it was a surprise how much of the movie stayed with me on a rewatch.  It's also amazing to think that this sort of thing, which was a huge hit when it came out, would now be pitched as a stunt or aimed only at the Boomer crowd (and would certainly be derided as a fantasy meant to hurt Millennials somehow).

It's hard to remember, but with fewer outlets for entertainment in this era, we got to know actors from prior generations via guest appearances on shows like The Love Boat or guesting on popular sitcoms, etc... Sometimes folks would appear for a movie appearance.  Between this film and some mid-80's comedy, I grew up aware of Don Ameche, and I'm sure this is how I knew Hume Cronyn.  Seeing it again explained why Jessica Tandy looked so familiar when she received a new wave of fame for Driving Miss Daisy.  But the movie also had Gwen Verdon and Maureen Stapleton.

It's still a delightful movie, even if, in this golden era of television, you can imagine how this would have worked as a TV series over two or three seasons.  We only briefly get to explore the impact of youth for our seniors, both benefits and follies.  And the painful decision to leave behind a grandson for a chance at more life - and an entirely new kind of life when you thought you were in your twilight years - had to be dealt with in shorthand (the poor daughter of Wilford Brimley's character gets relegate to an 80's mom who has no idea what is happening right through the film's ending as her parents are taken away by aliens.  Like... that's a story, man.).

This movie also features one of Steve Gutenberg's better performances of the era - he's still a bit of a clown, but no one is asking him to mug or go over the top and you can see some of the Steve Gutenberg I've seen in more recent appearances.  And, of course, the movie makes the bold choice of casting Brian Dennehy as a benevolent alien who doesn't behave like a kneejerk reactionary.  Like: what a bold narrative choice!  Plus, Dennehy is fantastic in a controlled, amused performance.

This... may be my favorite Ron Howard movie?

This is more than I intended to write about a movie we've all seen a half dozen times, but minus the unfortunate choice to give birth to the notion of "breakdancing old people are hilarious", it holds up shockingly well.

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