[Turner Classic Movies will show Cocoon, one of Ron Howard’s pretty-good movies, this coming Sunday, Feb. 10, at 2:45 p.m. Pacific Time. The following review appeared in The Weekly during the film’s 1985 first run. Also on screens then was another sci-fi film in a very different key, Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce. That won’t be on TCM (which is showing Cocoon because of the Oscar it won for Don Ameche), but Lifeforce is available on DVD. However, you really should wait for the Shout! Factory upgrade of it, coming out on Blu-ray and DVD in April. – RTJ]
[originally published in The Weekly, June 26, 1985]
The summer braindeath alert is still in force, but the Cineaste General has just announced two additional safe zones in which the filmgoer can move without undue fear of contamination. Somewhat surprisingly, both abut the science-fiction genre, a plague-ridden territory where video-game special effects and kiddie cant are habitually substituted for intelligently impelled narrative and a provocative point of view. Nevertheless, Cocoon and Lifeforce may both be recommended to discerning viewers, even though they happen to be light years apart in style, tone, content, and likelihood of achieving commercial longevity.
Of the two, the apparent class act is Cocoon. It’s the latest film from actor-turned-terrific-movie-director Ron Howard, whose romantic comedy-fantasy Splash last summer was an entertainment of rare freshness and enchantment. Its packagers are Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown, who first enabled Steven Spielberg to set his Jaws for the unwary moviegoer. They’ve supplied Howard with a nifty story idea (by David Saperstein), two-thirds of a good screenplay (Tom Benedek), and a cast unmatched for professionalism and appeal, if not marquee clout: Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Don Ameche, Gwen Verdon, Maureen Stapleton, Jack Gilford, Brian Dennehy, and Steve Guttenberg.
Most of the aforenamed play residents of a Florida retirement community called Sunny Shores, where they sit waiting, with varying degrees of contentment and resignation, for the Grim Reaper to pay a house call. Actually Ameche, Brimley, and the terminally ill Cronyn don’t do much sitting. They’ve lately taken to trespassing on the disused palatial estate next door and paddling, like truant sixth-graders, in the indoor pool.