For every slow-paced Oscar-winning melodrama that rips your heart out, you need a ‘Cocaine Bear.’ A quick, stupidly fun, and outrageously wild time at the movies that lets you turn your brain off and be entertained for an hour and a half.
It’s been almost 40 years since a black bear in the Chattahoochee National Forest stumbled upon and consumed 75 pounds of cocaine. In the film, Cocaine Bear starts off on a similar note with drug smuggler Andrew C. Thorton II (Matthew Rhys) throwing cocaine off a plane that is in the midst of going down. After releasing the final bag and strapping on his parachute, he is knocked unconscious as he falls out of the plane plummeting to his death. This was the end of Andrew C. Thorton II’s story, but what comes next is where the legend of Cocaine Bear begins.
In this reimagining of the events, the drugs belong to Syd (Ray Liotta) who runs a smuggling empire and he sends Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and his son Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) to go retrieve the drugs from the woods. Officer Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) plans to stop them. At the same time, after Sari (Keri Russell) leaves for work, her daughter Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince) and her friend Henry (Christian Convery) head off to the forrest so that Dee Dee can paint the waterfall. Once everyone arrives in the forrest, and the bear starts to intake more cocaine, the real battle ensues between man and an apex predator high on drugs.
Sitting at just over an hour and a half, this film gets into the action right away. It doesn’t take its time in the beginning to set up too much story because truthfully, with a movie like this, the story doesn’t matter all that much. For the most part this film understands that. Audiences will pay admission to see a bear fueled up on cocaine and wreaking havoc on the people in its vicinity and when Cocaine Bear does exactly that, the film works extremely well.
Instead of shying away from the brutal nature of this premise, director Elizabeth Banks leans into that absurdity in a hilariously, gory way that leaves very little to the imagination. The scenes of bear attacks are extremely violent but done in such a way that evokes the feeling of slasher horrors of the 80s, just with a bear as the killer and far funnier.
The humor of Cocaine Bear is there from the first scene. The opening begins with facts about bears plastered on the screen, showing us we are in for quite the ride tonally. Produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, their brand of slapstick shock comedy is riddled all over Jimmy Warden’s script. However, while the film gets going quickly and is able to reel the audience in with the humor and brutality, towards the end of the second act, there is a slight change that slows the pacing down quite a bit. Cocaine Bear works when there is a bear onscreen doing the most insane stuff anyone will ever see a bear doing, but when the titular bear isn’t on screen, there isn’t much to gravitate to.
For the cast though, it is easy to see they’re having the time of their lives. Primarily made up of actors who were once well-known names that have slowly faded from the limelight, there was a looseness and freedom in each of the performance that helped elevate the humor. The pair of kids (Brooklynn Prince and Christian Convery) also provided some of the biggest laughs in the theater, and Ray Liotta was given the chance to be as evil and hilarious as he wanted to be in one of his final roles. But, the MVP of the film is Alden Ehrenreich, whose line delivery and expressions throughout boosted the comedy.
For every slow-paced Oscar-winning melodrama that rips your heart out, you need a Cocaine Bear. A quick, stupidly fun, and outrageously wild time at the movies that lets you turn your brain off and be entertained for an hour and a half. This film might not work as a whole, but the parts that do are truly a sight to see.
Should be Considered: None
Release Date: February 24, 2023
Where to Watch: In Theaters
Loves movies, the awards season, and this dog (even if he isn’t his).
Favorite Director: Bo Burnham