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COCOON (1985) (***1/2)

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With making his first big splash with SPLASH, Ron Howard followed up that hit with this quirky sci-fi flick about a group of retirement home inhabitants that find youthful rejuvenation in a swimming pool containing alien cocoons.

The film has two parallel stories that converge in the end. Firstly, Jack Bonner (Steve Guttenberg, THREE MEN & A BABY) skippers a boat and takes a group of human-looking aliens, lead by Walter (Brian Dennehy, STOLEN SUMMER) and beautiful Kitty (Tahnee Welch, I SHOT ANDY WARHOL), out to collect huge pods from the bottom of the ocean. Once Jack learns they're aliens, he is at first scared, but soon helps them and falls for Kitty.

The second and most central story is the four old men and their wives, who have been sneaking into the next-door neighbor's pool, which the aliens rent. Ben (Wilford Brimley, THE NATURAL) and Mary Luckett (Maureen Stapleton, THE MONEY PIT) are a loving couple, who share a good wit. They have a grandson named David (Barret Oliver, D.A.R.Y.L.), who likes to spend more time with his grandparents then with kids his own age. Joe and Alma Finley (Hume Croyn and Jessica Tandy, BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED) have been married for years, but once the "fountain of youth" gives Joe a new lease on life he starts to get a wondering eye. Art Selwyn (Don Ameche, TRADING PLACES) is a single man who gets the nerve to woo retirement home dance instructor Bess McCarthy (Gwen Verdon, MARVIN'S ROOM). Bernie (Jack Gilford, CATCH-22) and Rose Lefkowitz (Herta Ware, CRUEL INTENTIONS) are a scared duo, who must deal with Rose's growing struggle with Alzheimer's.

Rarely do big budget Hollywood films have such rich and fun roles for older actors to play. Despite Ameche's Oscar win for Supporting Actor, I really feel Brimley is the best, and the real key to the film's success. I especially loved him during his second attempt to take the eye test at the DMV. He is truly the hero of the film, bringing it real heart and conscience. Following a difficult decision, he and his grandson have a heart to heart that is subtly played. Stapleton is his equal in subtle grace as well. While not as deep as Brimley or Stapleton's roles, Ameche brings pizzazz to his part. His break-dancing scene is classic. Real-life couple Croyn and Tandy bring the pleasure and pain of being together for decades that only honest performers could bring.

The film has an inspiring story of being able to reclaim your youth. The heartwarming tale is centered around the wonderful performances from its veteran actors. Forgiving its sketchy plot rationale at the end, the film is filled with adventure, comedy and warmth that will entertain and even move the most bitter of audiences.

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
Creator of Rick's Flicks Picks