The senior characters of this modern day fable took this poem to heart.
When we first meet the motley group, they are as many of us dread one day becoming. Kept in a nursing home, days filled with vapid activities like shuffleboard or mah-jongg, whiling away hours floating in a deserted swimming pool, watching people your own age drop like flies. When that changes through the magic of alien technology, they become, if not the picture of reckless youth, at least a semblance of the people they were once upon a time, proving the old cliché: you ARE only as old as you feel. In that, it's a good lesson for people heading into their golden years or even those of us just having midlife crises. We can't help but grow old. But it's up to us whether we want to BE old or merely mature.
For a science fiction movie, it would appear to have few special effects. This is an illusion. There are quite a few effects shots, although the variety of effects is rather limited. The glowing aliens are quite good except for the all too familiar hand movements by Caprice Rothe, who first did the job for "E.T." Still, by and large the effects are impressive and convincing even when compared against the latest films of the 21st century. Even more impressive was the poolhouse, which was hastily constructed purely as a setpiece for the movie. It looks absolutely real, as if it had sat there among the Florida palms for decades.
Tahnee Welch, daughter of the seemingly ageless Raquel, was wholesomely fetching here. Whether she was a limited actress or merely underplaying the role is for others to decide. Ron Howard wisely kept Steve Guttenberg's role limited, focusing mainly on the older characters. A little Guttenberg goofiness goes a long way. Also present are the standard Howard family repertory, with brother Clint as the nursing home attendant and father Rance making a brief appearance as a detective. Much as already been said about the excellent performances of the older cast members. This was, after all, the role that finally won an Oscar for Don Ameche. But they're slowly slipping away from us, one by one. First Jack Gilford, then Ameche, then Jessica Tandy and recently Gwen Verdon. At least we'll have this movie to remember them by. Maybe they weren't at the peaks of their careers, but quite possibly the roles they fit most comfortably.
Two attempts to cash in on this movie failed. Both 1987's "*batteries Not Included," starring Tandy and Cronyn, and the 1988 sequel "Cocoon: The Return" flopped. Neither had the genuine warmth of this original. Ron Howard showed good judgement in turning down the chance to direct the sequel.
As for the musical score, it's one of James Horner's better works, mixing symphonic grandeur with childlike wonderment. Alas, he does fall into old habits and reuse some bars and measures from his "Wolfen" and "Star Trek II" scores.
It's a shame this movie never found the audience it deserved. I first saw this in a shopping mall four-plex a couple of weeks after its release. There couldn't have been more than 20 people in the entire theater. The whole movie holds up remarkably well in the 16 years since, except for the break dancing. My god, has it been 16 years already? Where can I find some Antarean life force?