What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know there is fairly regular swearing in this seriocomic sci-fi tale, including one shocked f-word, but maybe even more troubling for young viewers is the strong theme of mortality and sweet old grandparent-like characters (and nice-guy aliens) dying, or going away forever. Much is made of the elderly having sex -- nothing shown, but there's plenty of sex talk and the general vibe of a Viagra commercial. Two other characters "share themselves" with human-alien intimacy, a no-touching, energy-field deal, but clearly orgasmic. An alien disguised as a pretty young earthling is naked from the rear and nude in a pool up to her collarbone. There is a subplot about marital infidelity and some fistfight-scuffling. In all the talk about end-of-life issues, nobody mentions religion at all --there's only one service shown briefly at the end -- but a grandfather's speech to his grandson about "going away" skyward, where nobody ages or dies, is sort of a metaphor.
What's the story?
In a Florida retirement community, some senior citizens who try to stay adventurous to defy advancing age, disease, and mortality, decide to trespass in a nearby, empty mansion and use the swimming pool. Meanwhile a quartet of benign, luminous space beings have landed on Earth in human disguise. Renting the mansion and a boat from a rather goofball young fishing guide Jack (Steve Guttenberg), the "Antareans" carry out a retrieval mission to haul from the ocean floor their alien comrades, who have been dormant in "cocoons" for the past 10,000 years, ever since the sinking of Atlantis. Yes, the Antareans are that ageless, their life-energy making them practically immortal. The presence of the cocoons in the pool starts to rejuvenate the oldster Earthlings. Dapper Art (Don Ameche) starts romancing retired showgirls Bess (Gwen Verdon). Joe (Hume Cronyn) finds his cancer going away and his libido returning. Keeping the miracle pool a secret becomes a problem for the species of both planets.
Is it any good?
This isn't the only sci-fi based on the Fountain of Youth, but it is an uncommonly gentle one. It also makes a few serious points (blunted a bit by wish-fulfillment and special effects) about the plight of the aged in modern society. Elders here are poignantly marginalized, their "golden years" spent mostly waiting to die. Only one guy with a loving grandchild seems to have strong ties with the world outside the senior community, and it's a world that wants to revoke his driver's license (and thus his independence) because of bad eyesight.
There's a strong emotional undertone and some real tearjerking moments when aliens offer these seniors immortality. One wishes director Ron Howard had toned down the f/x-blitz finale and explored more thoroughly whether death/ loss are necessary to be human; the sequel Coccoon: The Return groped in that direction but came up mediocre.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the theme of immortality and rejuvenation and the choices the characters make regarding it. What do kids think of Bernie, who rejects the gift because it seems unnatural to him?
Talk about aging -- a theme still not addressed very plainly in youth-oriented Hollywood, and often couched in fantasy terms like 17 Again and Forever Young. Ask kids if they think about being old and what it might be like.
Discuss other tales of immortality and "fountains of youth" -- kids may know the violent Highlander series, too-many-to-name vampire dramas, even the Harry Potter novels, that ask how far one would go to live forever.