by Directed by Ron Howard
Review by Charles Mohapel
20th Century Fox Blu-ray ISBN/ITEM#: B00369ERBU
Date: 28 May 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Director: Ron Howard
Tom Benedek (screenplay)
David Saperstein (story)
Cast (Cast overview, first billed only):
Don Ameche ... Art Selwyn
Wilford Brimley ... Ben Luckett
Hume Cronyn ... Joe Finley
Brian Dennehy ... Walter
Jack Gilford ... Bernie Lefkowitz
Steve Guttenberg ... Jack Bonner
Maureen Stapleton ... Mary Luckett
Jessica Tandy ... Alma Finley
Gwen Verdon ... Bess McCarthy
Herta Ware ... Rosie Lefkowitz
Tahnee Welch ... Kitty
Barret Oliver ... David
Linda Harrison ... Susan
Tyrone Power Jr. ... Pillsbury
Clint Howard ... John Dexter
Meet Art (Don Ameche), Ben (Wilford Brimley), and Joe (Hume Cronyn), three fun loving senior citizens who like to swim in an unguarded pool house on the vacant estate next door from the old folks home they live in. One day after they go swimming, they feel energized, reinvigorated, and "ready to take on the world!" What they don't know is that the estate was recently rented by four peaceful aliens from the planet Antarea, who are now masquerading as humans.
It seems that 10,000 years ago, they had established an outpost on an island that was known to Mankind as Atlantis. According to legend, this outpost sank due to an earthquake, and in order for the Antareans to escape this calamity, twenty team members remained behind so that the rest would have enough lifeforce to return home.
Now that Walter (Brian Dennehy), Doc (Mike Nomad), Pillsbury (Tyrone Power Jr.), and Kitty (Tahnee Welch) have returned to Earth, they hire Jack Bonner (Steve Guttenberg) and his boat to collect the twenty cocoons from the warm shallow waters. And now the real fun begins.
Watching Cocoon with the Director's Commentary by Ron Howard, we hear how this is the first time he's seen it in completed form since 1985. He talks of how fresh off his success directing Splash, he was approached by Richard & Lili Zanuck and David Brown to direct Cocoon. We learn how this was his first time working with composer James Horner, and how this led to more collaborations. Pre-CGI, Cocoon features matte paintings, models, and optical effects - and it still looks good 25 years later. Howard relates how this was the first time his mom had ever appeared in one of his films and how she ended up playing Jim Lovell's mom in Apollo 13. Principal filming took place on the grounds of a real mansion, though they had to build the pool house themselves. The underwater scenes were shot in the Bahamas in order to take advantage of their clear waters. Don Ameche won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this film. This was Ron's first experience with story-boarding, crucial for setting up and calculating the cost of Special Effects shots. Ron is very superstitious and talks of casting his wife Cheryl. Hume Cronyn had been a Golden Gloves boxer in his youth and in the scene where he is provoked by Bernie Lefkowitz and begins decking the young orderlies (including Clint Howard, he actually knocked one of them out by accident.
Ron is very low key, but it was a real treat listening to him go through the background of filming Cocoon and sharing all sorts of gems like those above.
The "Behind-The-Scenes Featurette" was lots of fun, but way too short. If the face and name of Tahnee Welch ("Kitty") seem familiar, it should come as no surprise that her mother is the statuesque Raquel Welch. Equally familiar was the name Tyrone Power Jr. and while checking out the information on IMDB.com, I checked out his page. He is the great-great grandson of the original theatrical great Tyrone Power. Despite actually being Tyrone Power IV, he acts under the name Tyrone Power Jr., the same name his father began his career under.
A second featurette that was way too short was when we see Ron Howard directing a scene in Cocoon and hear him speak of how he remembers Andy Griffith telling him that when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, his stock reply was "I want to be an actor/writer/producer/director/cameraman/baseball player". At 15 he had already decided he wanted to be a director. As it turns out, he did accomplish everything he said he would except play baseball.
Having already heard during Ron Howard's Director's Commentary that Mike Nomad had worked with him on Splash as the swimming choreographer and served as the diving instructor, as well as playing "Doc", one of the Antareans in Cocoon. In "Underwater Training" we can watch Mike Nomad as he gives key cast members basic diving lessons.
"Actors" was a joy since we got to see and hear some amazing actors share their thoughts with you, some of whom are no longer with us.
"Creating Antareans" was interesting since it featured three of the four actors who played the aliens, two of the special effects supervisors (I saw industry giant Ken Ralston a quarter century ago), and producer Lili Fini Zanuck.
To be fair, all five of the featurettes were filmed during production of the film in 1984 and they had no way of knowing that featurettes like these would be highly sought after bonus features, or they would have shot more additional footage like they do these days. And if they don't shoot this footage themselves, another company does it for them.
While watching the Theatrical Teaser and the Theatrical Trailer, I thought "If I saw this ad for a movie coming out this summer, I'd want to see it!" Likewise for the trailer for Cocoon: The Return which came out in time for Thanksgiving 1988.
Watching Cocoon on Blu-ray twenty-five years later, the story still resonates strongly and the special effects have aged gracefully. I laughed with the film, not at it. Even the five featurettes don't show many artifacts.
There's no better time to buy, sit down, and enjoy this fun summer film with family and friends, especially when the weather makes you feel like you were in Florida with them.