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Director Ron Howard followed up the huge success of Splash with this light-hearted science-fiction tale about a group of elderly friends who find their youth returning after encountering a benevolent alien species living next door to their retirement home.

Bucking the trend of extravagant special effects targeted at a teenage audience, Cocoon with its senior cast and more personal focus was a huge success, picking up two Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actor & Best Visual Effects), and remains one of the most memorable and heart-warming films of the eighties.
(Taken from the official synopsis.)

Video


Cocoon makes its non-limited edition UK Blu-ray début courtesy of Eureka. It looks to be a direct port of the US Fox release, so if you've seen that or indeed read reviews you should have a rough idea of what to expect. The 1.85:1 framed image is generally clean, with just the odd speck here and there, while the only noteworthy digital artefacts are some minor edge enhancement and sporadic posterisation. The colour palette is natural, if slightly drab, which renders the picture quite dim. Blacks are also a little on the muddy side. Although the image is quite soft overall close-ups can be quite revealing, but fidelity suffers slightly during the composite shots. It's a fairly solid presentation on the whole, although not what I'd call impressive compared to the best catalogue titles. It suffices rather than dazzles.

Audio


For the most part Cocoon's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track plays more like a stereo effort. It's a predominately dialogue driven affair, although the rear channels are employed for some low-key ambient effects and the occasional discrete pan. As for the dialogue, it's generally intelligible but there are one or two moments when its mixed a little too low. Sound effects fare a little better though and there’s even a little bass towards the end of the film (although nothing that would threaten to dislodge any ornaments from the mantelpiece). James Horner's sweeping score is always well-represented in the mix, serving as the stand-out element of the track. As with the video before it this is a perfectly serviceable effort, but one that struggles to transcend the limitations of the source. For those of you who like to keep things old school, the film’s original stereo track is also included in LPCM.

Extras


Although not terribly plentiful, the included bonus material is about what you would (or certainly what I would) expect from a catalogue title of this ilk. The vintage nature of many of the supplements actually works in their favour, as they are far more substantial and interesting that the usual PR fluff that you find on modern releases. Here's a breakdown.

  • Feature-length audio commentary with Director Ron Howard
  • Five featurettes: Behind the Scenes, Ron Howard Profile, Underwater Rraining, Actors, Creating Antareans
  • Three TV spots
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Teaser trailer
  • Cocoon: The Return theatrical trailer
  • Collectors booklet featuring a new article on the film by critic James Oliver, and archival imagery

Overall


I have reasonably fond memories of Cocoon from my childhood. Looking at it through adult eyes some things resonate more powerfully now that I’m closer to the protagonists’ age (although hopefully I have a few years to go yet), particularly the theme of loss. The endearing performances from the ageing cast go a long way towards offsetting some of the cheesier moments, such as Don Ameche’s break-dancing routine, which has to rank as one of the worst body doubles I’ve ever seen (check out the ridiculous mask). The effects are very clearly of their time, but they aren’t any worse than other modestly budgeted features from the era and a lot of them still hold up fairly well.

As for the technical side of things, well overall this is a pleasing presentation of the film with strong audio-visual elements and a reasonably entertaining collection of extras. I'm not sure it will sway modern audiences to the film, which remains very much of its time, but the Blu-ray is a worthy purchase for nostalgia lovers.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

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