(Second Viewing, On Cable TV, January 2019) I remember seeing Cocoon as a kid, but considering the film’s themes of aging it’s very different to see it as a middle-aged adult. (There’s one shot in the film, in which “human skins” are discarded and thrown to the floor by the alien characters, that seriously freaked me out when I was younger.) Efficiently directed by Ron Howard, this is a clever blend of SF, romance and comedy as retirement-aged characters discover alien eggs and the rejuvenating effects of the pool in which they’re stored. Of course, the aliens are there for a reason and their minders have good reason to be concerned. The script cleanly moves between one mode to the other, gradually making its way to a sentimental action-driven finale. There’s a tremendous amount of irony and foreshadowing in Cocoon’s early lines, showing the craft in the script. This probably remains the best film in which Steve Gutenberg ever starred, although his acting simply can’t reassure up to the impressive elderly ensemble cast assembled in between Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy and others. Now that the baby boomers are taking over retirement homes, I expect the film to undergo a modest rediscovery as its themes of eternal youth directly addresses them. For younger viewers, Cocoon can occasionally be a meditation on growing old (and what people would do if there was an alternative), although it doesn’t forget to leaven the meditation with genre elements and comedy.
(Second viewing, In French, On Cable TV, September 2018) I try to see movies in their original languages (with subtitles) whenever possible, but it’s appropriate that I caught Short Circuit in French given that this is how I first saw the movie decades ago. Granted, it’s not an approach without its drawbacks: I hated the voice of the robot protagonist back then and it still grated today, and I could have done without the film reviving some irritating quotes and exclamations that I thought I had repressed over the decades. It doesn’t help that Short Circuit is a really dumb movie even by kids-movie standards. It sets up a halfway sophisticated premise about a military robot gaining sentience thanks to a freak accident, but that’s merely an excuse for the kind of stupid comedy film aimed at undiscerning younger audiences. The limitations of practical effects being what they are, the film often does not match from one shot to another, or reflect what the script is saying. The grating French dub only underscores the poor dialogue, and it’s not Steve Gutenberg (nor Fisher Stevens in brownface) who can elevate the material above the direction it ultimately went in. (Gutenberg is also all wrong for an introvert scientist role, but that’s not what ended up on-screen.) And yet, despite Short Circuit’s problems and hackneyed plotting, I still have a juvenile affection for it, obviously due to the fact that I first saw it when I was twelve or thirteen. Not a good movie, irritating dub and yet… I can’t be too mad at it.