A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this confusing sequel leaves one with a distinct "been there, done that" feeling. A muddled plot and mature themes such as sex make it inappropriate for grade-school children. If they don't get bored, the dilemmas faced by the characters may provoke thought and discussion for older kids and preteens. The important themes may hold some teens' attention, though many will likely lose interest.
What's the story?
When seismic activity threatens the cocooned aliens left behind in the original movie, the elderly retirees return on a four-day rescue mission from their extraterrestrial El Dorado. Back on Earth, the seniors find that they're all too human again. After having lived a celibate life on an alien planet, Art (Don Ameche) gets Bess (Gwen Verdon) pregnant. Joe's (Hume Cronyn) cancer returns, and after his wife Alma (Jessica Tandy) is hit by a car, he trades what's left of his own life for hers. In attempting to retrieve the cocoons, one falls into the wrong hands, and the benevolent aliens and their human friends must hurry to recover it. In the end, after having re-experienced life on their home world, many of the retirees opt to stay put. Only Art and Bess go back, in order to ensure their child's healthy birth and be able to see him grow up.
Is it any good?
The magic of Cocoon would be hard to re-create, though the fine cast -- most everyone from the original returns here -- gives it their all. Unfortunately, the movie is preachy and confusing, and the storyline involving Gwen Verdon's pregnancy strains credibility. When dealing with problems facing the elderly, however -- especially the boredom and isolation exemplified by a grieving widower – COCOON: THE RETURN almost succeeds. Here the returnees realize what their desire for immortality has cost them: grandparents realize their importance to their grandson, whose growing up they've largely missed out on; and Alma is thrilled to be offered a job for the first time in her life. Of course the original 1985 movie already dealt with similar issues, only in a more poignant and entertaining fashion.
The subplot that will most interest young people involves the captured alien cocoon and its helpless, prematurely "hatched" inhabitant. However, it's not at all clear, given the returned aliens' life-giving powers, why they need human help rescuing their friend. The rescue scenes themselves lack authority and tension. The Return is fairly predictable, and its humor often wince-inducing. Boat captain Steve Guttenberg's (Short Circuit) crush on an alien female, for example, leads to a regrettable and unfunny scene in a restaurant in which she has a "reaction" to human food. When she shows him a vision of his future life, it's easy to guess who his future wife will be.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the elderly should be treated. How do you treat the elderly peole in your family? Do you make fun of older people? One man makes a huge self-sacrifice for the woman he loves. The movie's themes -- treatment of the elderly, and problems faced by the elderly -- have some value. This could be an opportunity to volunteer at a local senior center.
- In theaters: January 1, 1988
- On DVD or streaming: April 1, 1997
- Cast: Courteney Cox, Jessica Tandy, Steve Guttenberg
- Director: Daniel Petrie
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Space and Aliens
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic intensity
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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