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'Cocoon : The Return' (PG)

By Desson Howe
November 25, 1988

THOSE rejuvenated old folks from "Cocoon" are back from outer space and Eternal Youth because they miss friends and family. Their Antarean hosts are back because their alien eggs are in danger.

Uh-huh.

They're really back because "Cocoon" producers Richard and Lili Zanuck and David Brown said, "Hey! What about 'Cocoon: The Return'?"

Actually, "The Return" is a pleasant if superfluous invasion of your local theaters. Everyone in front of the Cocoon Uno camera is back, including Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Brian Dennehy, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Steve Guttenberg and nine others. It's nice to see the old codgers still alive, kicking and making whoopee.

But don't look for more than extra-terrestrial homecoming. Where "Cocoon" tickled the fancy (with rekindled desires, everlasting life, cures for terminal diseases and moon-walking for the very old), "Return" is Auld Lang Science-fiction: Grandparents Brimley and Maureen Stapleton visit grandson Barret Oliver (the 9-year-old is now 14) again. Tandy gets a job helping pre-schoolers. Newlyweds Ameche and Gwen Verdon discover pregnancy isn't just for the young. Boat-tour hustler Guttenberg re-encounters space beaut Tahnee Welch, and they again experience that special-effects equivalent of safe sex (low on body contact, high on electricity)).

Just about everyone tries to set up curmudgeon Jack Gilford (widower Bernie, who stayed behind) with feisty hotel manager (and "Cocoon" newcomer) Elaine Stritch. And deep in subplot backwaters, the St. Petersburg Oceanographic Institute apprehends an alien pod and endangers the life of its fetus, to the chagrin of sensitive scientist Courteney Cox.

Scenarists Stephen McPherson and Elizabeth Bradley and director Daniel Petrie (of not-so-mystic "Mystic Pizza") cannot be accused of being adventurous, though their earthly visit delivers some teary moments about the sad realities of aging, particularly during an "E.T."-like life-transference scene between Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. As Gramma Stapleton explains the raison d'e^tre for this sequel, "It's not right. People shouldn't outlive their children."

Apparently, directors can't outlast their sequels, either. Ron Howard, who spun the first "Cocoon," is noticeably missing, as are scriptwriters David Saperstein and Tim Benedek, cameraman Don Peterman and others (although James Horner replays his old music score). But then, this isn't "Godfather II." This is the Sequel Department. You want Art, that's down the hall.

COCOON: THE RETURN (PG)

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