Once the financial take reached a certain level, there was no avoiding a sequel to Cocoon.
Only problem was, most of the main characters in that film – residents of a Florida retirement home – were whisked away at the end to a planet where they wouldn’t age or sicken or die. So where would the sequel pick up?
Cocoon: The Return, answers this burning question by bringing the far-flung travelers back, quite literally, down to earth. They return looking none the worse for space travel, but with slightly better tans and wearing golfing clothes: Wilford Brimley and Maureen Stapleton, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, and Don Ameche and Gwen Verdon, all returning from the first Cocoon (Ameche won the best supporting actor Oscar last time out).
The excuse for bringing them back home is that the aliens must retrieve the cocoons they left in the ocean. So, the earthlings tag along and get a few days R&R on the beach, and make contact with some old friends, including Jack Gilford, as the crotchety widower they left behind.
The alien expedition is led by Tahnee Welch (Raquel’s daughter), who finds her old friend (Steve Guttenberg) now hawking cheap souvenirs and running a crummy tourist boat. Guttenberg, who provides some of the movie’s most amusingly laid-back moments, naturally helps the extraterrestrials get their pods off the ocean floor. But he does lay down the law; this time, he insists, “You cannot steal any old people.”
The script, by Stephen McPherson, invents a lame side-plot, wherein one of the cocoons is seized by an oceanographic institute. This is basically a ruse to stir up a little fake suspense at the end and introduce a new character, a sympathetic scientist (Courteney Cox). The other new character is a brassy motel owner (Broadway veteran Elaine Stritch, last seen in Woody Allen’s September), who meets the dour Gilford and perks him up a bit.
The sequel recycles a lot of the devices of the first film. Every opportunity is taken to display the spryness of the oldsters, from a romp in the surf to a pick-up game of basketball. There are a couple of unexpected medical twists, and the main bone of cotention seems to be the homesickness that quickly infects the visitors.
None of this is compelling or new, but, under Daniel Petrie’s sure direction, it all goes down pretty easily. Petrie even manages to loosen up the heretofore wooden Tahnee Welch, who has a funny scene in which she gets drunk on Earth food and begins flinging her dinner around. The other actors, needless to say, are pros who don’t need to be told how to deliver the goods.
That said, it’s probably time for the Cocoon movies to head for the retirement home. The sequel comes pretty close to exhausting the possibillities, a condition that is all but admitted by the inclusion of clips from the first film during the closing credits. At the end of this one, we got some people back home, we got some people back in the stars. Now let ’em stay where they are.
First published in the Herald, November 1988
Not much to say, really – has anyone thought about this film since it came out? It sounds like my fabled Guttenberg soft spot was in place here. Daniel Petrie came out of TV’s Golden Age and went back to the small screen after this film; he worked on some duds but also had an interesting moment in 1980-81 with Resurrection and Fort Apache the Bronx. He was the father of the similarly hard-working Donald Petrie and Daniel Petrie Jr.