Picks and Pans Review: Cocoon: the Return

updated 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

To call this sequel to the 1985 smash a crushing disappointment doesn't begin to state the case. Blame the script by TV writer Stephen (Behind Enemy Lines) McPherson, whose knee-jerk sentimentality dilutes the original's insights into how the elderly have become aliens in our society. Or blame director Daniel (Rocket Gibraltar) Petrie, whose gimmicky touch shows how much the original director, Ron Howard, is missed. You can't blame the incomparable cast. Hume Cronyn, Wilford Brimley and Oscar-winner Don Ameche are back as the senior citizens who deserted their Florida retirement complex to travel with friendly space creatures (Brian Dennehy, Tahnee Welch) to another galaxy where life, productivity and dignity extend for centuries. Jessica Tandy, Maureen Stapleton and Gwen Verdon are once again in tow as their wives, and the sextet has returned home: Their spaceship is on a four-day exploratory Earth mission, giving the humans time to renew old ties. They visit with pal Jack Gilford. Now a widower, Gilford has taken up with feisty Elaine Stritch, a newcomer to the cast who gives the film its single spark of life. For sex, Welch (Raquel's kid is still gorgeous and untalented) picks up with earthling Steve Guttenberg, who bares his chest more than she does. For laughs, the codgers manage tricky basketball shots with the help of tacky special effects. For drama, there's pregnancy, cancer and a hit-and-run to shake up the oldsters. For heart, there is only a cash register whose ring sounds crassly throughout this cynical exploitation of audience goodwill. (PG)

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