Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pool of Rejuvenation

Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Wilford Brimley, Don Ameche, Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, Brian Dennehy, Steve Guttenberg, Maureen Stapleton, Gwen Verdon, Tahnee Welch
Released: June 21, 1985

Oscar nominations:
Best Supporting Actor - Don Ameche (won)
Best Visual Effects (won (really?!))

People who saw the teaser trailer for Cocoon before it was released were probably really confused and were probably wondering what the hell this movie was about! I would have thought it's about nautical exploration as you see something covered with barnacles and seashells and crustaceans crawling all over it.

Those pods, or cocoons, you might say, are from outer space, specifically a planet called Antarea and have been housing aliens in the depths of the ocean for thousands of years. About a hundred centuries ago, they had an outpost on Earth and when it was time to leave, they were able to retrieve everyone except for the ground crew. A team of four aliens from Antarea have come to Earth to retrieve them. They disguise themselves as humans (good idea if you're an alien visiting Earth!) God, this movie sounds so weird and crazy, but for some reason, I kinda love it. Among the disguised aliens are Walter (Brian Dennehy) and Kitty (Tahnee Welch - she is Raquel's daughter). Along with two other aliens (disguised as dudes), they pay a guy named Jack (Steve Guttenberg), who has a boat to take them out to sea every day for a month. They offer him a nice, hefty sum and since Jack is low on money he is happy to oblige. Hmm, I wonder if the creators of Third Rock From the Sun got their inspiration from this movie? I couldn't help thinking of that show when I was watching the scenes of the aliens disguised as humans!

Each day after the Antareans have collected the cocoons, they return to the house with the indoor pool they're renting and put them in the pool. You know, they never do tell us how these aliens pay for the house and boat they're renting for about a month! Maybe they've been disguised as humans for decades and have gotten jobs to accumulate money to pay for all of this. They do come from a planet where you never get sick or die, so they are immortal. Before he finds out the truth about what the pods actually are, Jack questions Kitty about them and she tells them that they are extremely rare large snails shells and they are taking them to a maritime museum to study them.

This movie takes place in Florida, which means senior citizens aren't too far away and not far from the house with the pool housing the cocoons is a retirement home called Sunny Shores. Often trespassing to swim in the pool are three of its residents: Ben (Wilford Brimley), Art (Don Ameche), and Joe (Hume Cronyn). They invite Ben's 12-year-old grandson, David, to come with them one day, but when they see people moving into the house, they abort. Later, they see them unloading the pods (covered up) and think they are up to some shady business and decide if they're up to something illegal, then they won't feel bad about breaking into their pool while they're away. The first time they swim in the pool after the mysterious new neighbors have moved in, there are four cocoons in the pool. They wonder what these strange-looking rocks are, and after determining they're harmless, they all get in the pool. After a few seconds of swimming, they all declare how great they feel and are soon splashing and jumping into the pool like little kids. We get a montage of this with very '80s-sounding music. What is happening is that the cocoons are giving out a life source which makes the old people feel rejuvenated. So much so, that they are ready for some action with their wives/lady friends. Mary (Maureen Stapleton) is Ben's wife, Art is wooing Bess (Gwen Verdon), and Joe is married to Alma (Jessica Tandy, who was married to Hume Cronyn in real life. There was a cute behind the scenes featurette where he referred to her as "Jessie". I totally "ahhh"-ed over that.) The ladies join the men in the pool, and soon, they too, start to feel younger and livelier than ever. Mary is able to climb a tree with her grandson. Ben, who failed his eye test pre-pods, returns and is able to read the last line of the smallest print. And most remarkable of all, Joe, who had cancer, soon finds out he is cancer-free.

The older gentlemen want their friend, Bernie, to join them, but he refuses, thinking it unnatural. In a sad scene, when he finds his wife, Rose, who had been suffering from severe dementia, has passed away, he rushes her to the pool, begging her to wake up, but it is too late for her.

Jack discovers his passengers are really aliens when he decides to be a creep and spies on the attractive Kitty through the keyhole while she's getting undressed. Kitty has a knack for knowing when someone is spying on her (this is the first of two times when she sense someone peeping at her). Instead of seeing a naked woman, Jack sees a glowing alien. Now this movie won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects and if you watch this movie in this day and age, they look pretty bad (hence my "really?!" exclamation). I suppose for 1985 they were a cinematic achievement. Jack is freaked out at first, naturally, but decides to help the aliens with their mission when they tell him they're going to get their friends back with or without his help and that they can just hire another person with a boat. He must really need that money! We see him in a later scene reading a book called "The Complete Book of Extraterrestrial Encounters". The aliens never seen concerned when humans figure out who they really are. This happens again when the three gentlemen are swimming in the pool, then hide in a closet when they see the house guests have returned early. They take off their human forms and this is the second time when Kitty (as an alien) senses someone looking at them through the closet. It's just too bad she doesn't have this extra sense when she's in her human form. While the older gentlemen do tell the police about what they saw, they don't believe them and Walter tells them that he won't press charges against the trespassing senior citizens and laughs off the crazy story. The pool-dwelling senior citizens soon become friends with the aliens and we get another montage (with a very '80s-sounding song called "Gravity") of them playing cards together and the senior citizens grooving at the dance floor at clubs. Art even shows off by break dancing.

Everything comes to a horrible halt when other residents at Sunny Shores hear about this magical pool from Bernie and soon it is overcrowded with senior citizens who are taking out the cocoons (now covering every floor inch of the pool) and abusing them in the process. It's a pretty horrible scene. (Horrible in the way they're treating the cocoons; not the way it was shot). Because of all the people in the pool at once, they have sucked all the life force out of the cocoons and the aliens have died.

Since they now have room on their spaceship due to the cocoons not being able to make the trip back, Walter offers all the residents of Sunny Shores to join them to come back with him and Kitty (and the two other aliens whose names I don't even remember because they're really not important characters) to Antarea, a planet where you never grow old and you never die. All of them are quick to accept except for Bernie who opts to stay and live out his last days on good old Earth. I'm sure the staff of Sunny Shores will be delighted when they find out they no longer have a job since the retirement home is now empty. Ben doesn't tell his daughter because he knows she won't believe him and think he's crazy, but he does tell his grandson. I have a hard time believing any grandparents would leave their grandchildren behind, knowing they'll never see them again just for a chance of immortality. I feel given the choice of living forever, but never being able to see your loved ones again or spending your last days on earth surrounded by loves one, most people would choose the latter. Sure, Ben would be with his wife and his friends from Sunny Shores, but we did see him spending a lot of time with David in the movie, so he obviously had a bond with his grandson. And it's not like Ben or Mary (or any of their friends) were knocking on death's door even though they were old.

But they decide to be selfish and leave their family and get on the spaceship. Seriously, would you go to another planet? You don't know what you're going to find when you get there. All these old people may be getting scammed! They're too naive! And even if where they were going did provide immortality, who would want to live forever? I feel like that would be more of a curse than a blessing. As I was watching this, I couldn't help but think of that whole Heaven's Gate cult fiasco. Do you remember this? It happened in 1997. All of these people were in a cult and followed this crazy old man named Marshall Applewhite who had 38 other followers kill themselves by drinking poisonous Kool-Aid so they could reach a spaceship following the comet, Hale-Bop. One detail I remember was that they were all wearing Nike shoes. It was so weird. I'm surprised they haven't made a movie about this yet. The voyage to outer space in Cocoon isn't as dark since they don't kill themselves, but they do all seem to be brainwashed by the idea of immortality.

They were on a boat in the middle of the ocean when the spaceship beamed them up. The authorities thought they were capsized and drowned and there's a funeral for all of them. Even though they are told they will never return to Earth, they do in the 1988 sequel called Cocoon: The Return. Way to make their journey anti-climatic! I saw it 12 years ago, but I don't remember anything about it. Ron Howard must have gotten angry letters about Ben and Mary leaving their grandson behind, because when they come back to Earth, they opt not to return to Antarea and live out the rest of their days with their family. (I read the summary on Wikipedia).

Whenever Jack was helping the Antareans collect the cocoons from the ocean or any other time they were out in the ocean, they were always surrounded by dolphins. Obviously the life force attracted them. Or maybe dolphins just hang out with people in Florida; IDK! I have to tell you my amazing dolphin story. It only lasted for about five seconds, but I love telling this story. About four years ago I was in Destin, Florida with my brother and his wife and we were on a boat and this dolphin poked his head out of the water right next to our boat. Of course I didn't have my camera ready so I couldn't snap a pic! But he was so close to us, I could have reached out and petted him, but I didn't because I respect nature and I didn't want to get my hand bitten off. Even though they look very friendly, they are still wild animals! We did see a lot of dolphins and I got plenty of videos and pics of them, but we never saw one poke its head out of the water again.

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